Friday, February 5, 2016

Teachers Back Wolf's Education Budget

 Andrea Sears, Public News Service 

Governor Wolf is calling for a $377 million increase in K-12 funding for this year. (Gov. Tom Wolf/flickr.com)
Governor Wolf is calling for a $377 million increase in K-12 funding for this year. (Gov. Tom Wolf/flickr.com)
HARRISBURG, Pa. - Teachers are praising Gov. Tom Wolf's stand on education funding. In December the governor line-item vetoed all but six months of school funding in the budget passed by the Legislature. In his budget address next week he will ask lawmakers to include the $377 million increase for the current fiscal year that was part of the compromise budget passed by the Senate.

It's a move strongly supported by Jerry Oleksiak, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association.

"It's needed desperately," says Oleksiak. "If the governor had not signed the blue-lined budget that he did in December we would literally have schools that were closed. And that could still happen."

He says without additional funding now, some schools will be forced to close as early as next month.

House Republicans say the compromise budget of last year is no longer on the table. However Oleksiak points out that in December there was enough support in the House for the compromise to pass, but a vote was never taken.

"Whether or not the House Republicans and the governor can find some common ground remains to be seen," he says. "They did it once. Hopefully they can do it again."

The governor says he will be asking for an additional $200 million increase in education funding for coming fiscal year that begins July first.

Oleksiak says that's an important step toward restoring some of the funds cut under previous administrations.

"But it is not enough to do the things that we want do do for our kids," Oleksiak says. "I think that's sometimes what gets lost in all the discussion. This is about real kids in real classrooms."

Equally important, he says, is adoption of a formula for the equitable distribution of education funding throughout Pennsylvania.

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