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Education Funding Questioned as Hearings on Proposed State Budget Begin
February 11, 2014 – Howard Ondick
HARRISBURG- As Senate budget hearings begin in Harrisburg, a Berks County lawmaker says before any new education programs are implemented by the Corbett Administration, the state’s education funding formula needs to be changed.

Our speaker is Senator Judy Schwank of Berks County, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which began three weeks of budget hearings today in Harrisburg.

The Senate Appropriations Committee kicked off three weeks of budget hearings with Charles Zogby, Governor Corbett’s Budget Secretary who fielded questions ranging from education funding to criticism that this budget plan is balanced on revenue hopes and dreams to concerns over gas drilling in state forests, lottery funds for senior citizens and the governor’s Healthy PA plan gaining federal approval.

Senator Schwank says Pennsylvania’s education funding formula “is broken” and needs to be changed this year. She says the basic education formula goes back to the 1940s and should be reworked before any new education programs are implemented.

In his budget address last week, Gov. Corbett announced that he wants to implement a “Ready to Learn” block grant program.

Previously, the state had implemented an Accountability Block Grant program for school districts.

Senator Schwank says there’s a patchwork of educational programs and funding formulas that don’t make any sense, are outdated, and don’t allow school district administrators to properly plan their budgets year to year.

Gov. Corbett’s budget plan calls for more than $10.1 billion in state funds in support of public schools – an increase of $368.6 million, or 3.8 percent.

The Ready to Learn Block Grant, the governor’s new initiative to increase student achievement, provides $340 million in direct classroom support – $100 million allocated through the Accountability Block Grant and $240 million distributed through a student-focused funding formula. Examples of eligible uses include: Pre-kindergarten to grade 3 curriculum alignment; Ensuring that all students are reading and doing math on target by third grade; Extended learning opportunities for more customized student instruction; Training to support early literacy; Supplemental instruction in biology, English language arts and algebra I; Instructional coaches; Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education; and Implementation of the State Literacy Plan.

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