PSBA Special Report: Gov. Wolf's 2019-20 State Budget Proposal
There is still time to register for PSBA's members-only complimentary webinar with state Budget Secretary Jen Swails who will cover highlights of the governor's spending plan and feature issues impacting public education related to the budget the webinar will be held on Thursday, Feb. 7, from 4-5 p.m. Click here to register for the webinar.
Today Gov. Tom Wolf delivered his state budget address to the General Assembly. The $34.15 billion proposal is an increase of $927.3 million, or 2.8% over the current year. Education generally fares well under the proposed budget, with increases in the basic subsidy and special education line items.
"PSBA applauds the governor's steady commitment to public schools, and we are very appreciative of the investments made in the basic education subsidy during the last four years. The proposed budget would continue needed investments as the cost of mandated programs and services continues to rise," said PSBA CEO Nathan G. Mains.
PSBA is disappointed that the governor's budget did not include funding for school building projects or address the need to reform the state's reimbursement program for construction and renovation projects (Plancon).
Additionally, PSBA notes total proposed increases must be viewed with the fact that public schools continue to face huge increases in mandated costs outside of their control, including expenditures for pensions and charter school tuition. While mandatory pensions and many other expenses continue to soar, school districts are forced to make difficult choices.
Funding for basic education under the governor's plan includes:
Basic Education Subsidy/Ready to Learn Block Grant/teacher wages: The governor is proposing an increase of $200 million (3.28%) for basic education funding. In addition, the budget includes $241.9 million previously appropriated as the Ready to Learn Block Grant. Each school districts' 2018-19 Ready to Learn Block Grant allocation will be added to its base amount under the basic education funding formula. With the roll-in of the Ready to Learn Block Grant, the proposed budget includes a total of $6.54 billion for basic education funding.
Each school district receives a base amount equal to its 2014-15 allocation with adjustments, now including the amount of 2018-19 Ready to Learn Block Grant funds. The remaining balance -- $704.8 million or 10.8% of the 2019-20 total for school districts - will be distributed through the basic education funding formula. Out of the $200 million in new funds, $18 million would be used to fund school districts who received increased Ready to Learn Block Grant funds in the 2018-19 fiscal year.
About $13.9 million would be proposed to increase the minimum starting salary of teachers and other education professionals, including counselors and school nurses, to $45,000 per year. These funds will not be run through the BEF formula.
Considering these adjustments, only about $168 million in new money would be run through the BEF formula.
Ready to Learn Block Grant (charter schools): The Ready to Learn Block Grant appropriation contains just $8 million, reflecting only the portion that charter schools received in 2018-19.
Special education: The budget provides an increase of $50 million (4.4%) to $1.18 billion, with the increase distributed through the special education funding formula. The governor recommends that $300,000 of the 2019/20 special education appropriation be used for Keystone Telepresence Education Grants. This funding will be allocated to intermediate units to purchase the necessary equipment to enable children with serious illnesses or injuries to attend class using telepresence technologies.
Career and technical education: The budget includes a $10 million increase for career and technical education programs. Funding for Career and Technical Education Equipment Grants remains level at $2.5 million.
School safety: The budget provides $45 million for the School Safety and Security Fund.
Pupil transportation: Funding for pupil transportation is level funded at $549 million.
School employees' retirement: The budget provides for an additional $160.5 million (6.45 %) increase to $2.6 billion to cover the state's share of pension costs.
State assessment: Funding for state and federal testing programs, including the Keystone Exams and PSSAs, receives a $1 million increase for a total of $50.4 million.
Teacher professional development: The budget provides an increase of $650,000, bringing the line item to $5.95 million.
Authority rentals and sinking fund: The 2019-20 proposed budget includes only $10.5 million to cover the costs of the charter school lease reimbursement program. No money for school district construction reimbursement is included; the moratorium on new PlanCon applications is set to expire at the end of 2018-19 unless it is renewed.
Other education initiatives
Early childhood programs: Early intervention will receive a $15 million increase. Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts will receive a $40 million increase and the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program will receive a $10 million increase.
Compulsory school age - The budget proposes to lower Pennsylvania's compulsory age of school attendance from the current requirement of 8 years to 6 years. This change is intended to align with other states and common practice to ensure the children do not fall behind because they start school later than their peers. It is estimated that this change will increase enrollment by more than 3,300 children between ages 6 and 7 statewide.
Study of universal, full-day kindergarten - The budget calls for mandating a study on the effectiveness of lowering the compulsory age of school attendance further to 5 years of age in order to quantify the long-term impacts of starting school at an earlier age and identify readiness issues. The study will also examine potential implementation challenges for school districts such as physical classroom limitations, staffing needs, and multiplier effects for families and the workforce. This study would provide information that could be used toward the goal of providing universal access to free, full-day kindergarten for all children.
Raising the dropout age - Noting that dropping out of school is a decision that could result in significant negative lifelong impacts, and that in 2016-17, more than 4,000 17-year-old students left school before graduating, the budget plan proposes to raise Pennsylvania's minimum exit or dropout age for compulsory school attendance from the current requirement of 17 years old to 18 years old.
Click on these links for district-by-district subsidy charts from PDE:
2019-20 Proposed Summary of State Education Appropriations
2019-20 Proposed Basic Education Funding
2019 -20 Proposed Special Education Funding
2019-20 Secondary Career and Technical Education Subsidy