Secretary Rivera Discusses Future of Pennsylvania's Education System on School Tour Stops

Mar 11, 2016, 17:47 ET from Pennsylvania Department of Education

PITTSBURGH, March 11, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera today visited two schools in Pittsburgh to meet with educators to discuss the need for investment in education, as well as a system to ensure school accountability and student achievement in the commonwealth.

Yesterday, at the first event, a "Schools That Teach" visit, Rivera met with administrators and teachers at the Montour School District to discuss the governor's budget proposal and the funding challenges schools across the state have faced due to the legislature's inaction.

"When I travel around the state, the educators and advocates I meet with have one thing in common: their commitment to their schools and students, despite any challenges they may face," Rivera said. "The support of the teachers and administrators in Pennsylvania's schools is unwavering, and inspiring. With that being said, the cost of inaction has impacted schools substantially, and Pennsylvania finds itself at a crossroads. We must adopt the path that invests in our schools now."

In February, Governor Tom Wolf proposed a $200 million increase to basic education funding as part of his 2016-17 budget proposal. The investment, which represents a 3.3 percent increase, is in addition to the $377 million increase included in the 2015-2016 bipartisan budget compromise. The agreement was supported by bipartisan majorities in both chambers before Republican House leaders failed to hold a final vote. The new funding would be distributed using the Fair Funding Formula created and unanimously adopted by the bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission in June 2015.

The new proposal would also add $50 million for Special Education, $60 million to expand Pre-K Counts and Head Start Supplemental Programs, as well as investments to modernize Career and Technical Education programs, and bolster funding to the state higher education institutions to lessen the reliance on tuition hikes and fee increases.

During the visit, Rivera heard from school administrators, teachers, and administrators, who shared challenges the district has encountered as a result of the reductions in funding beginning in 2011.

Following the Schools That Teach stop, Rivera visited Pittsburgh King K-8 to conduct the fourth in a series of roundtables with education stakeholders focused on gathering input to be used to inform new strategies for school accountability and achievement.

"Each of today's participants brought their expertise and unique perspectives to the table, adding valuable input to this important discussion," Rivera added. "As we strive to improve student achievement and accountability in schools across the commonwealth, the knowledge of my colleagues and fellow educators will serve as an important tool to help us reach our goals."

Also present at the roundtable was state Representative Jake Wheatley, D-Allegheny.

"It is very important that we work with administrators and educators to build a plan to ensure improvements in achievement, especially in schools with the highest needs," Wheatley said. "By convening this group of engaged stakeholders today, we can work together to provide a quality education to students across the commonwealth."

With improving education as the hallmark of his administration, Governor Wolf has directed the Department of Education (PDE) to examine several policies that define education in the commonwealth. Those include lessening the reliance on standardized tests in measuring school and student achievement; modifying the metrics that comprise the School Performance Profile score; and restoring the billions of dollars cut from school funding under the prior administration.

Yesterday during a "Schools That Teach" tour stop, Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera met with officials from the Harrisburg City School District to outline Governor Wolf's proposed budget, discuss the importance of funding the commonwealth's schools, and review the potential negative outcomes of following the path the underfunds schools, students, and communities.

During the visit, Rivera heard from the district's Superintendent Dr. Sybil Knight-Burney, its Chief Recovery Officer Dr. Audrey Utley, teachers, board members, and administrators, who shared challenges the district has encountered as a result of the reductions in funding beginning in 2011.

MEDIA CONTACT: Nicole Reigelman, 717-783-9802.


SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Education