States State of the States

State of the States Coverage: Pennsylvania

By Benjamin Herold — March 17, 2015 1 min read

Here is a summary of a recent annual address by a governor.

PENNSYLVANIA

Gov. Tom Wolf (D) • March 3

Gov. Wolf used his first budget address to call for an increase in funding for public education in that state—and to offer a repudiation of the policies of his Republican predecessor, Tom Corbett.

“Over the past four years, Pennsylvania took a step in the wrong direction by trying to balance our state budget on the backs of schools,” said Mr. Wolf, who was elected last fall. “That’s why the very first thing my budget does is restore the $1 billion in cuts to public education that occurred under the previous administration.”

Among the educational priorities the new governor outlined are an increase in the state’s basic and special education subsidies, funding for expanded enrollment in prekindergarten, and a boost for career and technical education. Mr. Wolf also aims to partially restore previous cuts to funding for Pennsylvania’s state colleges and universities, in exchange for an agreement to freeze tuition.

The massive spending plan would be paid for primarily via a 5 percent severance tax on natural gas extraction. Mr. Wolf also aims to significantly increase the state sales and personal-income taxes. Those hikes would be offset by reducing property taxes by up to 50 percent, or about $1,000 annually, for the average Pennsylvania homeowner.

If approved, Mr. Wolf’s Pennsylvania Education Reinvestment Act would yield about $159 million in new revenue for the cash-strapped Philadelphia school district. The 128,000-student district had projected an $80 million funding gap for the 2015-16 school year.

During his speech, Mr. Wolf highlighted Katy Beth Klinger, a teacher in the 17,600-student Reading school district, who the governor said has been substitute teaching at her school even though she has “not been able to return to permanent work” since a mass furlough in 2011. The previous administration “left us with 25,000 educators out of work. It forced 75 percent of school districts to cut academic programs,” Mr. Wolf said.

“My budget puts teachers like Katy back in the classroom,” he said.

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A version of this article appeared in the March 18, 2015 edition of Education Week as State of the States

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