Tom Joseph, Public News Service-PA
HARRISBURG, Pa. – Education advocates say Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed funding of a $241 million education block grant is a significant dollar amount, but they still question whether it is the best way to use the money.
Susan Gobreski, executive director of Education Voters of Pennsylvania, says it remains to be seen what conditions are attached to the one-year Ready to Learn grant program and whether or not districts can use the money for the most critical needs.
"Since we don't have a funding formula,” Gobreski stresses, “the big question is going to be does that drive out money to where it's needed, the school districts that are really struggling to be able to meet the needs of kids right now, and are these the right programs to focus on?"
Gobreski says more important than new funding is to restore what was lost through nearly $1 billion in cuts to public schools.
She points out districts haven't yet recovered from the program cuts that were implemented.
Gobreski says there is also some good news in a $20 million increase in special education funding, which had been flat for more than five years.
"The Legislature formed a commission to study the issue of special education funding and has made a set of recommendations,” she says. “And I think the important point there is that when legislators lead, we can start actually taking positive steps to address some of these issues."
Gobreski adds while the governor's education-funding proposal this year marks a major improvement from the past several years, the money is only a one-time grant, not an ongoing increase and not being directed where it is needed.
"If we aren't going forward on basic education funding, we're going backwards,” she maintains, “because it means we have to use the same pot of dollars for programs that have increased costs, which means we have to cut somewhere else to keep up."