Hike funding

Here’s how much local school districts will receive in public education funding.

Governor Tom Wolf has never hidden his views on education.

From his first days in office in 2015, he called on Pennsylvania to better support public schools in the Commonwealth. And every year since, he has proposed major increases in public education funding.

“Since taking office, Pennsylvania students and families have been my top priority,” Wolf said in a statement issued on July 8the day he put pen to paper to sign the final budget for his mandate.

This budget cemented Wolf’s legacy in many ways, for the second year in a row, including a historic increase in funding for education.

The 2022-2023 state budget projects a $1.8 billion increase in education spending.

This includes $525 million in new funds for the state’s Basic Education Grant — the main flow of dollars from the state to local school districts — $225 million for the poorest school districts across the country. state and a $100 increase in special education funding.

The increases included in the new budget bring the total state spending on education during Wolf’s tenure to more than $3.7 billion.

“We have made long overdue investments in the people of Pennsylvania, including better education for all, safer communities and a brighter future,” Wolf said in the statement. “The $1.8 billion education guarantee in this budget reinforces those efforts and translates into a historic investment of $3.7 billion that my administration has made in education at all levels over the past few years. last eight years. I am extremely proud of what we have accomplished.

Local numbers

The state’s additional investment in education will have a significant impact on local schools.

Berks County’s 18 school districts will see a combined total of more than $43 million in additional public funding. This follows an increase of more than $20 million for Berks Schools last year.

Each district in the county will see an increase in its grants for basic education and special education.

For basic education, the increases range from 2.9% for Fleetwood School District to 30.6% for Antietam School District.

Five local districts will each receive more than $1 million in new basic education funding: Antietam, Boyertown, Muhlenberg, Reading and Wilson.

Reading will receive a particularly impressive boost, seeing its basic education grant jump by more than $26.8 million. This is the third largest increase in the state behind the Philadelphia School District ($176.7 million) and the Allentown School District ($35.6 million).

Reading now has the second-largest total basic education grant in the state at nearly $184.1 million. Only Philadelphia’s $1.4 billion grant is larger.

The Reading Basic Education Grant includes just over $13.3 million in Higher level funding, which aims to help the 100 most needy school districts in the state. The only other district in Berks to receive Level Up funding is Muhlenberg, which receives just over $451,000.

As for special education funding, Berks’ 18 districts will also each see an increase. The increases range from 5% in the Kutztown School District to 20.8% in Antietam.

Looking at the dollars and cents, Reading will get the most new public funding for special education with a $2.4 million increase. Other increases range from about $50,000 in Kutztown to about $517,000 in Boyertown.

Overall, Berks school districts will receive an additional $5.7 million in special education funding.

The impact

Local headteachers say the increases in state funding are a welcome addition, especially after a two-year period when the COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on finances.

Although the federal government has provided significant funding to schools for COVID relief, it is one-time money that needs to be spent with caution. State funding, on the other hand, is stable and recurrent, which means that its impact can be much greater.

“We are extremely pleased with the state’s investment in our children and our schools,” said Reading Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Murray. “Sustainable funding – as opposed to the one-time money we received during the pandemic – allows us to invest for the long term and make systemic improvements to benefit our students in the Reading School District.”

Murray thanked Wolf for his efforts, as well as State Senator Judy Schwank and State Representatives Manny Guzman and Mark Rozzi. She said they have all shown continued support and advocacy for Reading students and improving education in the state.

Reading officials said the increased state funding will help the district address three priority areas: safety, staff and student mental health.

The district plans to add additional school security guards, improve door security, update surveillance systems and possibly invest in weapons scanners.

District officials say they have had an overstaffed staff over the past two years, and new state funding will help solve that problem. The money will help hire more teachers, paraprofessionals, food service workers and custodians to fill the more than 200 vacancies the district currently has.

The district is also expanding health insurance benefits for paraprofessionals.

Regarding student mental health, the district plans to add additional counselors and social workers; improving programs to identify high-risk students; implement a daily check-in system to monitor students’ mental, social and physical needs; expand mentoring programs; and increase professional development.

Wilson School District officials also applauded the increase in state funding.

“We are grateful for this additional source of funding which is essential in enabling the Wilson School District to provide an exceptional educational experience for all students,” said Superintendent Dr. Chris Trickett.

Trickett said Wilson’s increased basic education and special education funding will be put to good use and allow the district to reduce the deficit in its own 2022-23 budget.

The district also plans to take advantage of new mental health and physical safety grants offered by the state to help fully implement the district’s plan to provide student support programs and a learning environment. safe and secure, Trickett said.

Dr. Joseph Macharola, Superintendent of Muhlenberg, expressed his gratitude to Wolf and local lawmakers — especially Schwank and Rozzi — for their commitment to public education. He said Pennsylvania has historically underfunded education, but the new budget takes steps to address it.

“I’m so deeply happy,” he said. “I have enormous respect for Governor Wolf and his position on education. This budget served public education at a time when funding is so important.

One of the things the funding increases will allow Muhlenberg to do is provide additional supports for students who are still feeling the effects of COVID and the education disruptions it has caused, Macharola said.

“Children need intensive help and support,” he said. “We need boots on the pitch.”

Macharola said the district plans to use much of the money for staffing, saying there are plans to hire two police officers, two social workers and an additional special education supervisor.

Macharola said the state budget will also help Muhlenberg deal with the challenges of rapid growth. He said the district has added about 600 students over the past few years and plans to add about 800 more over the next decade.

” We are growing. Our buildings are packed to the max,” he said.

This means the dollars are getting thinner and thinner. Macharola said Muhlenberg, which has the county’s second-highest poverty rate, spends the least per student of any district in Berks.

That means any additional state support is incredibly welcome, he said.

“We’re trying to put eight pounds in a five-pound bucket,” he said.