HARRISBURG – Gov. Tom Corbett has unveiled his 2014-15 state budget that invests $12.01 billion in state funding for students in Pennsylvania’s early, basic and postsecondary education systems. This is an increase of $387 million, or 3.3 percent, over last year’s budget.
“Every child in this state should be ready to learn, ready to grow and ready to succeed,” Corbett said. “At every level, from early childhood to high school and beyond, every dollar we spend is an investment in the future of our commonwealth.”
Since 2011, Corbett’s Ready to Learn education agenda has transformed the state’s education system. Through targeted initiatives, Corbett has increased accountability and transparency of public schools, infused stronger educational resources into classrooms and focused financial resources on supporting all students.
As a result of these strategic investments, Pennsylvania’s students are Ready to Learn, Ready to Grow and Ready to Succeed as they prepare to enter the 21st century global economy.
Support of Public Schools
Corbett’s budget invests more than $10.1 billion in state funds in support of public schools – an increase of $368.6 million, or 3.8 percent.
The Ready to Learn Block Grant, the governor’s new initiative to increase student achievement, provides $340 million in direct classroom support – $100 million allocated through the Accountability Block Grant and $240 million distributed through a student-focused funding formula.
Based on the School Performance Profile, schools are permitted to use the additional funding to enhance learning opportunities for students and innovation at the local level.
Examples of eligible uses include:
- Pre-kindergarten to grade 3 curriculum alignment;
- Ensuring that all students are reading and doing math on target by third grade;
- Extended learning opportunities for more customized student instruction;
- Training to support early literacy;
- Supplemental instruction in biology, English language arts and algebra I;
- Instructional coaches;
- Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education; and
- Implementation of the State Literacy Plan.
As an additional component of the Ready to Learn Block Grant, $1 million in competitive grant funds will be shared among schools that have attained a 90 or higher on the School Performance Profile. This program, the Governor’s Expanding Excellence Program, would pave the way for high-performing schools share best practices that have proven to increase student achievement.
Through a dedicated $10 million competitive Hybrid Learning grant program, up to 100 schools will be awarded funding to develop and implement new educational strategies in the classroom to customize a student’s education and improve achievement.
Hybrid learning blends traditional and digital learning and has proven successful in schools across the nation.
Corbett’s budget also provides $1.05 billion for special education, an increase of $20 million – the first increase in six years. The additional funding will be distributed to schools based on categories of support for students with disabilities discussed as part of the Special Education Funding Commission.
Funding for public schools also includes:
- Basic Education Funding – $5.53 billion
- Career and Technical Education – $62 million
- Special Education, Approved Private Schools – $98.3 million
- Student transportation – $625.3 million
- School Employees’ Social Security – $482.5 million
- School Employees’ Retirement – $1.11 billion
- Pennsylvania Charter Schools for the Deaf and Blind – $41.7 million
With these additional investments, total state funding for public schools increases by $1.55 billion, or 18.1 percent, since Corbett has taken office.
After being discontinued by the previous administration in 2009, last year, Corbett partnered with Carnegie Mellon University to re-open the Governor’s School for the Sciences to offer talented high school juniors an opportunity to engage in cooperative learning and hands-on laboratory research in the sciences at no cost to students.
Corbett’s budget would provide $350,000 to continue funding for the Governor’s School for the Sciences and re-establish two additional schools for agricultural sciences and technology and engineering.
Corbett’s budget provides $374 million for early education, an increase of $10.8, or 3 percent.
Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts would receive $97.3 million, an increase of $10 million, or 11.5 percent. This would serve an additional 1,670 students, bringing the total number of Pennsylvania students receiving high-quality early education through Pre-K Counts to nearly 15,700.
Head Start Supplemental Assistance would receive $39.1 million.
Early Intervention, which provides support for students, age three to five, who have developmental disabilities, would receive$237.5 million. This includes $9.5 million to serve an additional 1,500 children, bringing the total number of students receiving services to nearly 52,350.
This budget also includes a supplemental appropriation for Early Intervention of $14.7 million for the 2013-14 budget.
Since taking office, Corbett has increased funding for early education programs by $72 million, or 24 percent, which has enabled nearly an additional 11,100 students to access high quality early childhood education programs.
To further increase the availability of high-quality early learning programs to Pennsylvania’s youngest students, the state was recently awarded $51.7 million in federal Race to the Top funding to support high-quality early childhood education programs across the state.
This funding will support the following:
- Kindergarten Entry Inventory to better understand the needs of children upon kindergarten entry.
- Governor’s Institutes to enhance teaching practice for Pre-K to grade three educators in a variety of early learning topics, including literacy, math proficiency and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education; and
- Early Childhood Education Community Innovation Grants to increase family support and engagement, develop stronger relationships between early childhood education programs and school districts, and strengthen the network of community organizations that serve families with young children. Grants will be targeted to communities that serve low-performing elementary schools.
Corbett’s budget provides a total of $1.62 billion for Pennsylvania’s students and higher education institutions.
In an effort to offset the cost of postsecondary education, Corbett’s Ready to Succeed scholarship initiative would provide up to $2,000 to eligible students whose families earn up to $110,000.
In addition to income eligibility, students would have to demonstrate academic merit to qualify for a scholarship.
“We all know post-secondary degrees are costly and sometimes out of reach as students and their families worry about debt. With this budget, we will launch the Ready to Succeed Scholarship program, which will provide an additional $25 million for middle income students who want to earn a two- or four-year degree,” Corbett said. “Whether students are looking at trade school or college, a little help at the right time can make a world of difference”
The scholarship program would be administered by the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency and would be in addition to the $345 million included in the budget for state grants funding for students.
The budget also provides the following amounts for the state-owned and state-related universities:
- State System of Higher Education – $412.8 million
- Pennsylvania State University – $214.1 million
- University of Pittsburgh – $136.3 million
- Temple University – $139.9 million
- Lincoln University – $13.2 million
- Pennsylvania College of Technology – $15.6 million
- Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology – $10.3 million
Pennsylvania’s 14 community colleges would receive $212.2 million in operational funding and $47.9 million in capital funding.
Corbett’s budget invests $61.3 million in Pennsylvania’s public libraries:
- Public Library Subsidy – $54 million, an increase of $500,000, or 1 percent.
- Library Access – $2.8 million.
- Library Services for the Visually Impaired and Disabled – $2.6 million.
- State Library – $1.9 million.
“Governor Corbett’s continued investment in Pennsylvania’s students will ensure that our children are prepared to compete nationally and lead globally,” said Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq. “I am confident that our students and educators are up to the challenge.”