Published Online: February 18, 2014
Published in Print: February 19, 2014, as Pennsylvania

State of the States

State of the States: Pennsylvania

Republican Gov. Tom Corbett addresses a joint session of the Pennsylvania House and Senate in Harrisburg. He is looking to boost K-12 funding in the next fiscal year, much of it through block grants focused on early education, innovation, and science and technology.
—Matt Rourke/AP

Gov. Thomas W. Corbett (R)
Date of Speech: Feb. 4

Faced with low approval ratings and voters angry over significant cuts to public education spending during his first three years in office, Gov. Corbett focused much of his 35-minute address on schools. He proposed a $369 million increase in state K-12 public education funding for the 2015 fiscal year, a boost of 3.8 percent from the $9.8 billion allocated during the current fiscal year.

The largest portion of those new funds, $240 million, would come in the form of "Ready to Learn" block grants focused on early education, science and technology, and educational innovation.

Also proposed by Gov. Corbett were a new, $25 million scholarship program for children from middle-income families; $20 million in new funds for special education and $10 million in new funds to provide pre-K services to an additional 1,670 students; a $10 million competitive "Hybrid Learning Grant" program, through which up to 100 schools could receive funds to support blended-learning models; and $1 million in competitive grants for successful schools to share their practices.

Although the state's basic education subsidy to districts would remain flat under the governor's proposal, the struggling Philadelphia school district, Pennsylvania's largest with 130,000 students, would likely see an increase of around $29 million in new state funds. But that's far less than what district officials have said they need to close a massive structural budget gap that deep cuts to schools and stop-gap measures only partially resolved this fiscal year.

Looming over the governor's proposals were concerns about where the funds would come from, especially given huge cost increases related to the state government pension system, including public school workers.

Vol. 33, Issue 21, Pages 24-25

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