Education funding renewed despite COVID-19 economic downturn
Senator Tom Killion (R-Chester and Delaware) applauded today’s passage of an interim state budget for the first five months of Fiscal Year 2020-21. Killion voted for the spending plan, which maintains last year’s historic level of state education funding for another year despite the projected revenue shortfalls caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“COVID-19 is an economic disaster as well as a public health one,” said Killion. “This interim budget provides certainty for school districts and responsibly defers additional spending until we have more information about the emergency’s effect on state revenues. We also remain hopeful of additional assistance from the Federal Government.”
The budget passed today is actually comprised of 15 different appropriations bills.
House Bill 2387 is a $25.8 billion interim spending plan for Fiscal Year 2020-21 that provides five months of funding for most state agencies and services. The appropriations in HB 2387 are based primarily on current funding for agencies and services in the Fiscal Year 2019-20 budget, but allocated at a five-month level. Full-year funding at FY 2019-20 levels is provided for a few select line items in HB 2387, notably education and food security programs.
House Bills 2441 through 2445 provide full-year non-preferred appropriations to Pennsylvania’s state-related universities and the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine at FY 2019-20 levels.
House Bills 2467 through 2474 provide full-year appropriations to restricted accounts and programs. Appropriations to agencies through House Bill 2475 for the regulation and oversight of gaming within the Commonwealth will be revisited in November.
Area public school district superintendents expressed appreciation for the certainty this budget delivers.
“Having state budget information prior to the presentation of our final budget is always helpful,” said Dr. George Steinhoff, superintendent of the Penn-Delco School District. “As the Commonwealth and its school districts grapple with significant revenue shortfalls, superintendents stand ready to recommend and execute meaningful mandate and cyber funding reforms that can help balance budgets and reduce the strain on our taxpayers. I have always appreciated and am grateful for the advocacy on behalf of Penn Delco by our elected representatives in Harrisburg.”
Dr. Jim Scanlon, superintendent of the West Chester Area School District also expressed his gratitude.
“We are happy to know that the General Assembly funded public education at its current rate,” said Scanlon. “With so many unknowns for the fall, it will be difficult to find enough revenue to implement the social distancing guidelines we may have to operationalize in order to open schools.”
The Senate also approved Senate Bill 1108 which appropriates $2.6 billion of Pennsylvania’s federal CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) funding for critical needs created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Funding in the package includes:
- $692 million for long-term living services providers.
- $260 million for providers of intellectual disability and autism services.
- $225 million to help Pennsylvania’s small businesses recover.
- $175 million to provide rent and mortgage assistance to low- and middle–income families impacted by the pandemic.
- $150 million to help school districts meet the challenges created by COVID-19 through school safety and security funding.
- $116 million for child-care services.
- $72.2 million to support higher education students.
- $50 million to support first responders.
- $40 million for agricultural and food insecurity programs.
- $28 million for community programs, including domestic violence programs ($10 million), homeless assistance ($10 million) and legal services ($8 million).
- $20 million for Cultural and Museum organizations.
- $9 million for early childhood education programs ($7 million for Pre-K Counts and $2 million for Head Start Supplemental Assistance).
The General Assembly will have to approve another budget for the balance of the fiscal year before the end of the current legislative session on November 30th. The interim budget now heads to the desk of Governor Tom Wolf who is expected to sign it.
“COVID-19 is an emergency of previously unimaginable proportions,” noted Killion. “It’s affected every segment of our economy and all corners of the Commonwealth. However, after protecting the health and safety of Pennsylvanians, no responsibility is more significant than making sure our children receive the fair, free and appropriate education they deserve. This interim budget does that.”
Contact: John Kelemen 610.436.3320