A Pennsylvania school budget was just approved, funding schools at the largest rate ever proposed by the state.
The state of Pennsylvania passed a historic school budget. Schools will be receiving an $850 million increase. The budget was approved by the Governor Friday and is being celebrated by lawmakers.
This is in accordance with recent trends. Blue states are mainly focused on increasing funding. For years now politicians and education officials have asked for more money and received it, yet somehow the public school system is still hurting. California also recently passed a massive education budget, despite enrollment drops, an inability to fill teaching positions, and reports of learning loss due to new guidelines which have removed failing grades in some areas. The Pennsylvania school budget is set to follow suit.
Pennsylvania schools are budgeting $525 million for K-12 aid. $225 million will go to improving the poorest districts, and then $100 million is set to increase special education funding. The new budget boosts districts in the state by about 8%, which barely matches inflation.
Critics of the new Pennsylvania school budget are also quick to claim that this funding increase cannot go far enough to address “inequities” and systematic funding issues, but being that schools are funded based on attendance and/or performance, unless districts reverse the trend of families seeking alternative education options — and get back to teaching core classes instead of identity politics — this money isn’t likely to fix those ongoing issues. During the pandemic, the state received $5 billion in Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief (ESSR) funds. Record amounts of money were pumped into the failing public education system and yet the results are lackluster.
Instead of wasting more money inflating the Pennsylvania school budget, officials may find more long-term successes in addressing the fact that student test scores have fallen and are not recovering at a proper rate based on the masses of funds which have entered schools at record rates. As with the teacher shortage, the solution is more complex than just “throwing money” at the situation. Chronic absenteeism is a serious issue for students who remain enrolled in the public education system.
When students miss large portions of the school year, they are more likely to fall behind. Their performance rates drop, and no amount of teaching materials can aid that. While this historic Pennsylvania school budget increase may be well-intentioned, it may not be entirely well-researched as some states have experienced attendance increases and higher graduation rates by simply changing school schedules. Instead of offering teachers more pay to fill vacant positions, or incentivizing “equity” movements to motivate students, schools in Colorado, Montana, and Texas have improved their districts by switching to the 4-day school week. This model is appealing to more and more families and staff members as it allows for added flexibility.
Whether the state of Pennsylvania has looked into the benefits of this unorthodox scheduling phenomenon or not, districts across the state will be receiving a budget boost. Some are applauding this measure, and others are uncertain that this will lead toward success. Regardless, the Pennsylvania school budget is set and will be tested by the coming semesters.