Once again, Governor Wolf's annual budget address was highlighted by three themes: "Schools that Teach," "Jobs that Pay" and Government that Works."
According to the Governor's speech, while in office the Wolf Administration has invested more than $1 billion in PreK-12. This year's proposal is no different, as the Governor is recommending a $100 million increase in the basic education fair funding formula and a $25 million increase in the special education funding formula.
For preschool children, Wolf is proposing a $25 million increase for Pre-K Counts and $5 million increase for the Head Start Supplemental Program. The budget proposal also includes a $15.3 million increase in federal funding so payment rates for subsidized child care keeps pace with the rates for families that pay privately. This is coupled with $2.5 million to increase county administrative allocations for Early Intervention (EI) services and $11 million for 2,000 additional slots for children age three to five. EI provides children with a range of developmental and social-emotional services and social work services.
The K-12 budget proposes expanding universal, free, full-day kindergarten for all students. Teachers' maximum salary would also increase from $18,500 to $45,000 under the Governor's plan. Charter school reforms in the proposal are estimated to save the Commonwealth $280 million per year. This includes: (1) applying the special education formula to all charter schools; (2) establishing a statewide cyber charter tuition rate; and (3) improving the redirection process.
Lastly, the Governor is proposing big changes for higher education, most notably $204 million to support the newly established Nellie Bly Tuition Program. Repurposed from the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development Trust Fund, the money would be used to provide financial assistance to full-time Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) students. The student must agree to stay in Pennsylvania for the same number of years for which they receive the benefit.
In addition, the budget proposes $30 million in new funding for the Pennsylvania State Grant Program. The $30 million would be matched by the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) and allow PHEAA to increase the maximum state grant award. $12.9 million is appropriated in the proposal to support the PASSHE system redesign. The redesign would build out a shared IT infrastructure, and help universities communicate and collaborate to more efficiently and effectively serve students.
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