The proposed education spending for the budget by PA Governor Josh Shapiro is just not feasible

June 7 – Proposed budgets are typically more like wish lists when governors announce them, but this year, PA Governor Josh Shapiro surprised a number of people by proposing a more than $1 billion increase in education spending in Pennsylvania for the 2024/2025 fiscal year. 

Minority Chair for the Education Committee in PA, Jesse Topper, said, “It’s not sustainable. It’s not sustainable over the seven year investment that will be necessary to make these numbers work because we don’t know what the economy’s going to be like in seven years. But judging by the way it’s going now, it is not going to continue to improve I can tell you that, but at the end of the day, anytime you have an 87 page bill that’s the language is introduced in less than 24 hours you’re ramming it through committee is not a product that is meant to get members on both sides or even the Senate on board. This is not a real product. Once again, it goes back to playing politics with the process. We need comprehensive education reform and look, here’s the trade. The other side wants more money. But me myself, I want standards. I want to know what we’re measuring, what the accountability is for schools using the money, what are we going to do for student achievement and how are we going to help the kids that don’t fit into a traditional public school setting? Until those answers are met, to me we’re not making any progress. So I understand what the governor wants and what the House Democrats want, but also understand what we want and what the Senate Republicans want. Until there’s actually two sides being represented in some kind of public policy, it’s a no go.”

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM noted, “Can we please not do a very imbalanced trade off like we’ve seen in the past? I’m sorry, I hate that I always harp on it, but the whole voting issue and the mail-in voting. I’m sorry Republicans totally blew it on that with a very imbalanced trade off. The money is unsustainable, so even if you get the vouchers for the lowest performing schools, that’s not a good trade off to have a very much too large of a number that we’ll be issuing a bond for that the Pennsylvanians just can’t afford. Do you think there’s enough backbone in the Senate to keep that from happening?”

Topper said, “From what I see, yes, I mean, the words that I’m hearing are good words. I’ve grown not to become a prognosticator when it comes to how these things will work themselves out. But look there are some real policy changes in addition to yes, the lifeline scholarships are important, but there’s other issues as well. This bill for instance, had once again more devastating cuts to cyber charter schools that were going to put many of them out of business. We can’t trade a Ford Focus for a Ferrari. It’s got to be a Ferrari for a Ferrari or a Ford Focus for a Ford Focus. We have to keep that in balance as best we can. From our position in the minority we’re going to do whatever we can to make that happen and I believe the Senate Republicans will as well.”

Will the budget come in on time? 

Topper said, “Yeah, I mean, I still believe we do. It’s an election year. I think it’s a plague on everyone’s house if we don’t. There are those of us who seem to be working a lot harder on that than others, but I’m still hopeful, but I definitely see some warning signs that would suggest that it could go deeper into the summer.”