Rendell says his education commitment is stronger than ever

PITTSBURGH (PRNewswire) – Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell today told the Pennsylvania State Education Association’s House of Delegates that education will remain a top priority for his administration.

“We’re working to prepare our children to successfully face the challenges in the future,” said Gov. Rendell. “Together, we can ensure that they are each ready to compete in the global marketplace. Over the last three years, students in all grades have begun to show positive results due to the investments we have made in science and math programs.

“Our students are no longer just competing for the very best jobs and
opportunities with their peers from New York, New Jersey, Ohio and North
Carolina. They are in a globally-competitive arena where they must have the
skills and knowledge to compete for high-tech jobs with students from
China, Korea, India and Japan.”

Since taking office, Gov. Rendell has made a historic, comprehensive commitment to Pennsylvania’s education system. Over the past three years, the governor has invested more than $1.2 billion in education, including the largest increase in school funding in two decades, committing increased resources to ensure adequate funding for every child, doubling state funding for Head Start and fulfilling the promise of creating a Job Ready Pennsylvania through his 2005-06 budget. 
Several of these historic initiatives include:

     – Pennsylvania’s first-ever investment in pre-kindergarten programming.

     Gov. Rendell provided an initial $15 million in Head Start funding in
     2004-05, which initially benefited 2,500 children.  In 2005-06, he
     increased the Head Start supplement to $30 million, which helped to
     provide services to an additional 4,710 children.  The governor’s
     commitment to early childhood education provides Pennsylvania families
     not only with an opportunity to enroll their children in Head Start,
     providing pre-kindergarten education but also offers comprehensive health
     and social services.

     – Implementation of Accountability Block Grants, which have enabled
        hundreds of school districts to implement proven academic programs
        that have raised the quality of education throughout Pennsylvania.

     The governor has provided $400 million in these block grants, with $2 out
     of every $3 being used by local school districts to invest in early
     childhood education.  More than 992,000 students are participating in all
     of the Block Grant programs combined.  Because of these efforts, more
     than 79,500 children are benefiting from pre-kindergarten, full-day
     kindergarten and reduced classroom sizes.

     – Increased focus on reforming Pennsylvania’s high schools through
        programs such as Project 720 and Dual Enrollment.

     Last year, Project 720 provided a $4.7 million investment, which enabled
     75 schools to transform their academic programs to ensure all students
     take a rigorous high school curriculum.  Dual Enrollment, which provides
     students the opportunity to earn college credits while working to
     complete their high school graduation requirements, was introduced
     through a $5 million line of funding that is now serving 20,000 students.

     – A statewide Educational Assistance Tutoring Program, which provides
        additional help for students struggling in math and reading.

     In 2004-05, Gov. Rendell announced the investment of $38 million in
     tutoring funds to 82 school districts, which helped more than 77,500
     students receive additional assistance with their studies.  In 2005-06,
     the Governor nearly doubled the tutoring investment by providing $66
     million to 175 school districts, allowing 157,750 students to receive
     additional help.

     – Development of a foundation funding formula in order to increase
        adequacy and equity to all school districts.

     Foundation funding sets a minimum funding target so that school districts
     that are low-spending and have high tax burdens can better invest in
     strategies that are proven to enhance student achievement.  In order to
     reach that objective, the governor invested $22.3 million in foundation
     funding to help 225 school districts move closer to the $8,500 foundation
     target.  Throughout Pennsylvania, school districts spend anywhere between
     $7,000 per student and $18,000 per student – a difference of more than
     $275,000 for every classroom of 25 children.

     – The largest increase in community college funding in 15 years.

     Last year, Gov. Rendell enacted Pennsylvania’s largest community
     college increase in 15 years by providing an additional $22.8 million to
     the commonwealth’s 14 community colleges.  The Governor’s community
     college funding plan puts greater emphasis on offering courses in
     Pennsylvania’s high-demand occupations and establishes incentives to
     encourage schools to improve their alignment with our economic needs.
    Pennsylvania’s total education investment for the 2006-07 fiscal year
    is $8.7 billion for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, a $517.1 million
    increase from last year. Governor Rendell’s proposed budget includes:
    – $10 million for “Science: It’s Elementary” program to upgrade the
       science curriculum in up to 150 elementary schools by using state-of-
       the-art curriculum and hands-on learning.

    – $200 million to transform high school teaching by providing laptops on
       every desk in English, math, science and history classes over the next
       three years – beginning in 2006-07 with $20 million for 100 high
       schools and $6 million in training so teachers can harness the power
       of technology in their teaching.

     – $3 million in grants to help school districts improve their college
        and career counseling programs in middle and high schools. In
        addition, Pennsylvania’s landmark Project 720 high school reform
        initiative will be expanded from $4.3 million to $9 million, adding an
        additional 30 schools to the current 75, and first-ever Dual
        Enrollment funds will be increased to $7 million from $5 million –
        with an emphasis on low-income students and Dual Enrollment.

     – $3.7 million to expand the successful New Economy Technology
        Scholarship Program.  This program provides grants to college students
        who major in math and science fields and agree to work in Pennsylvania
        for one year after graduation.  This budget adds 500 students and
        increases the maximum grant from $3,000 to $4,000 for bachelor’s
        degree candidates and from $1,000 to $2,000 for associate degree

     – $64 million in foundation funding to help 159 school districts reach
        the adjusted foundation target of $9,030, which increased in order to
        offset inflation.

     – $12.6 million for Pennsylvania’s 14 community colleges, building on
        last year’s historic increase and overhaul of the funding formula to
        focus on workforce development. This year’s increase includes a 4-
        percent operating boost and a 10.9-percent increase for the community
        college’s capital needs.

     – Continued funding at $66 million for Pennsylvania’s Educational
       Assistance Tutoring Program, to serve 175 academically-challenged
       school districts and area career & technical centers.

     – Expanding Head Start funding from $30 million to $45 million in order
        to serve an additional 1,540 children and bring the total number of
        children served statewide to 6,250.

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