HARRISBURG, Pa., March 6, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Wolf Administration today denounced a letter sent by the Senate Republican leadership to school districts across the state. The letter warned district superintendents to lower their expectations about the levels of funding to be provided by the commonwealth in the 2015-2016 budget. On Tuesday, Governor Wolf presented a budget proposal calling for the restoration of massive cuts made over the past four years to Pennsylvania's struggling schools. The Senate Republicans' response rejected this push for a historic reinvestment in education.
"Unfortunately, the Republican leadership is just saying no to challenging the status quo by putting forth the same old Harrisburg obstruction instead of real ideas to help Pennsylvania's struggling public schools," Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan said. "Governor Wolf has proposed a bold and expansive plan to reinvest in our schools and our economic future. The Governor called for robust debate and collaboration in his budget address. This is the opposite of that. This is a political stunt."
In contrast to the negative expectations being set by Republican leaders, Governor Wolf's budget sets the table for historic investments in education. Over the last four years schools across Pennsylvania have suffered from $1 billion cuts that led to massive layoffs, huge property tax increases, and the elimination of valuable programs. The data also shows that as education classroom funding fell, so did student scores in reading and math.
Governor Wolf's budget will increase the state's share of funding for public education to 50% for the first time in more than 40 years. By cutting school district property taxes by more than 50% for the average homeowner, Governor Wolf's budget will reduce the burden on the middle class and senior citizens and others who carry too much of the burden for funding our schools.
For the past few weeks, Governor Wolf has traveled our state, visiting schools, talking with teachers and parents, and sitting with students in classrooms. Governor Wolf has seen dedicated teachers and committed students who simply do not have the resources they need. That is why Governor Wolf proposed a common-sense severance tax on natural gas extraction, and asked schools districts to reduce administrative and back-office costs to refocus resources to classrooms, and find $150 million in savings through shared services and other efficiencies.
Governor Wolf's budget restores cuts to basic education with a four-year commitment to increase preK-12 funding by $2 billion. This year alone, Governor Wolf's budget would invest $400 million more in basic education; $100 million more in special education; and $120 million more in early childhood education. The budget includes restoration of many of the cuts to classroom funding over the last four years, and calls for strong and fair accountability to ensure results.
Governor Wolf's budget includes a historic $3.8 billion in property tax relief. Homeowner property taxes will see more than a 50% – or $1,000 – reduction on average. Pennsylvanians can see district-by-district analysis of how Governor Wolf's plan will impact their school district at www.schoolsthatteach.com.
This budget pursues a goal of universal pre-kindergarten instruction for all children and expanding access to early childhood education by increasing the number of children in Pre-K by 75 percent. The data shows that low-income kids who had Pre-K outperform their peers in 3rd grade reading and math.
For higher education, Governor Wolf's budget begins to restore cuts made to our institutions of higher learning by providing a combined $140.9 million more this year to our community colleges, state colleges and universities, and state-related universities. Today, just 48% of Pennsylvanians have a college degree or industry-recognized certification. But by 2025, 60% of good-paying jobs will require these credentials. Pennsylvania must close the gap.
Governor Wolf does not want to be part of the first generation of Pennsylvanians who have to tell our children that they have to go somewhere else to achieve success. No one does. But now we need to do big things to rebuild Pennsylvania's middle class and get Pennsylvania back on track.
MEDIA CONTACT: Jeff Sheridan – 717.783.1116
SOURCE Pennsylvania Office of the Governor