HARRISBURG – Gov. Edward G. Rendell said more than 11,000 Pennsylvania children will be able to attend quality pre-K programs and 65 percent of all eligible students will be able to attend full-day kindergarten with his proposed 2007-08 education budget.
The Governor’s proposal increases Pennsylvania’s investment in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade education by $527.8 million.
“Since becoming Governor, I’ve increased our investment in PreK-12 education by $1.8 billion, and student achievement is on the rise at every grade level and in every subject,” Rendell said. “The increase proposed in today’s budget brings that total to $2.3 billion, further increasing the quality of the education all of our school districts are able to offer.
“My 2007-08 budget continues to place resources in programs that are proven to increase student achievement, greatly expanding early childhood education, high school reform, and ensuring that all students are equipped with the skills necessary to make Pennsylvania an economic leader for years to come.”
Governor Rendell’s new budget provides unprecedented investments to support student achievement by increasing all major education subsidies, including:
-$166.7 million – a nearly 3.5-percent increase – for the basic education subsidy, including $58 million in Foundation Funding to help ensure that 169 school districts have adequate per-pupil resources to help all students reach grade-level in reading and math.
Districts will receive more support to provide quality special education services with a 3-percent increase in the special education subsidy.
PENNSYLVANIA PRE-K COUNTS
Calling it a down payment on future student success, Rendell said his 2007-08 budget includes major new investments in early childhood education, including $75 million for the launch of Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts – a new component of the $350 million accountability block grant program. This initiative will give 11,100 more children an early start to learning through voluntary quality pre-kindergarten programs.
The proposed budget also includes an additional $25 million for full-day kindergarten to help meet communities’ demand for this service. For the first time ever, more than half of all Pennsylvania’s kindergarteners are enrolled in full-day kindergarten, yet communities have made it clear that they still need additional state resources to enroll tens-of-thousands more children who do not yet have this opportunity.
“Targeting our resources in early childhood education is one of the wisest investments we can make,” said Rendell. “Every dollar we invest now in early childhood education will provide taxpayers with a 160-percent return down the road.
“It’s a proven investment in our collective future. I am pleased that we will continue to expand opportunities for children to start their education early through proven, quality, pre-kindergarten and full-day kindergarten programs.”
CONTINUING INVESTMENTS IN SUCCESSFUL PROGRAMS
Last year, Rendell launched the $10 million “Science: It’s Elementary” program in 78 schools to enhance science education. Based on a program that helped southwestern Pennsylvania students outperform their peers worldwide, “Science: It’s Elementary” encourages hands-on science learning in elementary school classrooms by providing intensive teacher training and learning kits.
Rendell’s 2007-08 budget increases funding for this effective program by $5 million ($15 million total) so this innovative and proven academic program can grow to 85 more schools and benefit 50,000 more students.
The 2007-08 budget will also continue transforming Pennsylvania’s high schools so that every student graduates ready for college and high-skill careers:
-Classrooms for the Future: Governor Rendell will bring 250 more high schools into the 21st century with a $90 million investment that will provide them with 83,000 laptops. The portable computers will help change how teachers teach and students learn and will be put on every student’s desk in core academic classrooms. The transformation to a more modern classroom began last year when 16,000 laptops were placed in 103 high schools across the commonwealth.
-Project 720: Project 720 high schools are leading the way toward transforming academic programs by providing all students with a rigorous high school curriculum in a small learning environment. A $3 million increase in funding for 2007-08 will expand Project 720 to as many as 30 more high schools. Today, 118 schools are participating.
-Dual Enrollment: More than 12,000 Pennsylvania high school juniors and seniors are enrolled in college credit courses now through the $8 million Dual Enrollment program. Governor Rendell’s 2007-08 budget includes a $2 million increase to provide Dual Enrollment opportunities to approximately 3,000 more students, particularly low-income students who might otherwise never have the opportunity to attend a college class.
Rendell said Pennsylvania will be able to receive another $23.6 million from the federal government by getting more students to eat breakfast and by increasing district’s breakfast and lunch reimbursement rates.
The proposed budget will invest $6.5 million in the health of Pennsylvania’s children by ensuring that more students have access to school breakfast, and by improving the nutritional quality of food sold in cafeterias and vending machines.
All schools where at least 20 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced-priced lunch will be expected to offer breakfast unless they can prove that doing so would create an unfunded mandate. The budget will provide the first increase in breakfast and lunch reimbursement rates in seven years for all districts that agree to meet the higher nutritional standards.
Pennsylvania’s 14 community colleges will receive a total of $229.4 million for operating costs, a 3-percent increase, to continue providing students with the skills needed to compete in today’s global economy. The Governor’s budget also includes a $2.5-million increase for community college capital investments.
Since 2003, counting this budget proposal, the Governor has increased community college funding by $63.7 million.
The State System of Higher Education will receive a 3.5-percent increase to continue the Governor’s record of keeping tuition increases as low as possible. The budget also proposes a 2-percent increase for state-related institutions.
To ensure that underserved communities have access to 21st century workforce training, the new budget provides $2 million to establish Pennsylvania’s technical college programs. The first two programs will be located in areas that currently lack affordable certificate- and associate degree-granting programs to help people prepare for high-skill technical occupations like engineering. Up to 10 programs will be established over the next several years.
The Governor is also proposing a new investment to encourage districts to save money by using shared services. The budget includes $1 million for the new Common Cents program, which will help groups of districts that volunteer to receive expert advice on ways to drive more dollars into the classroom.
Rendell will also continue to work with the General Assembly on a statewide health benefits system for school employees that would use the purchasing power of the 501 school districts and save money for taxpayers while protecting the health care coverage employees now receive.
“These investments are strategically preparing today’s students to be the workforce of the future, giving our high-tech businesses the employee pool they need to compete and succeed in the globally-competitive economy,” said Education Secretary Dr. Gerald L. Zahorchak. “The 2008 school year promises to be another outstanding year of progress for the commonwealth, thanks to the Governor’s commitment to a first-rate, forward-looking educational system.”
For more information on the 2007-08 Education Budget, visit www.pde.state.pa.us.