Harrisburg, PA (WETM) – Governor Tom Wolf joined legislative leaders and education stakeholders at the state Capitol today to celebrate the largest state funding increase for public school students in Pennsylvania history and the groundbreaking funding in the new Level Up initiative to provide an additional $100 million to the 100 lowest wealth school districts.
“This budget includes the largest education funding increase in Pennsylvania history,” said Gov. Wolf. “That’s a $416 million investment in high-quality education in every community. It shows all students that we care about their education and their future, reminds every mom and dad that Pennsylvania is invested in the success of their children, and will help the next generation of our kids to succeed in Pennsylvania, not in Texas, California or any other state.”
The governor also highlighted the Level Up funding initiative to provide a $100 million equity supplement to the state’s 100 poorest school districts. The proposal is based on HB 1167 introduced by Rep. Mike Schlossberg, which was folded into the state budget.
Level Up begins to close the funding gap between the state’s wealthiest and poorest school districts, helping underserved students in urban, suburban and rural districts struggling with years of underfunding from the state. Because each of these districts lacks the wealth from property taxes to meet the needs of students, most have high property tax rates, but without the resources their students need and deserve.
“Level Up will help us level the playing field, and make sure students in underfunded districts aren’t being left behind,” said Gov. Wolf. “I’ve visited many of those underfunded schools, and it is clear that our funding doesn’t treat every student the same. Every student deserves a chance to learn, and Level Up will help give them that chance. This is a life-changing investment for students across the commonwealth and the communities they live in.”
The governor was joined by House Democratic Leader Joanna McClinton, Rep. Schlossberg, Pottstown School District Superintendent Stephen Rodriguez and other legislators, education leaders and stakeholders for a press conference to mark the funding achievement.
“Level Up means an additional $6.3 million in badly needed aid to the cash-strapped Allentown School District,” said Rep. Schlossberg. “This isn’t the end goal, but a fantastic starting point. Because of Level Up, students, like those in Allentown, can start to get an educational quality that is a little bit closer to those in wealthier school districts.”
Gov. Wolf has fought to increase investments in schools in each of the seven state budgets during his term, and funding in this budget is $1.8 billion more than when he took office. Other funding increases in this budget include $200 million to the fair funding formula, for a total of nearly $900 million, $50 million for special education, $30 million for early education, $20 million for Ready to Learn, $11 million for preschool Early Intervention and $5 million for community colleges. The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education will also receive the first $50 million of a $200 million investment in federal American Rescue Plan funds to help the State System rebuild and make public higher education more affordable for students.
The governor noted the decision by legislative Republicans to not direct all state basic education funding through the fair funding formula is a missed opportunity, but Level Up is a critical first step toward that goal and he will continue fighting for all students in every zip code to have the resources they need for a quality education.