Budget and School Code Accomplish Priorities Teach Plus Teacher Leaders Advocated For
June 8, 2022, Harrisburg, PA ―Teach Plus Pennsylvania today issued the following statement in response to the Pennsylvania General Assembly’s recently approved 2022-23 budget package, which includes historic investments in education and targeted measures to address teacher shortages, diversify the educator workforce, and improve reading instruction.
“This year’s budget represents a sizable down payment toward closing the $4.6 billion adequacy gap in school funding and meeting the needs of the 100 most underresourced school districts, while also addressing critical priorities Teach Plus teachers have brought to policymakers,” said Laura Boyce, Teach Plus Pennsylvania Executive Director. “While much work remains to make our school funding system both adequate and equitable, grow and diversify the educator workforce, and meet the needs of our youngest learners, we are encouraged that the legislature took advantage of a historic surplus to pass the largest increase in education funding in Pennsylvania history.”
The budget increases basic education funding by $525 million and special education funding by $100 million, which will help all 500 school districts meet the needs of students and address rising mandated costs. “This funding gives districts breathing room to focus on meeting student needs in a time when our students’ academic and mental health needs are greater than ever,” said Mike Faccinetto, a Teach Plus Senior Policy Fellow who teaches in Southern Lehigh School District and serves as school board president for the Bethlehem Area School District. “While continued funding increases are needed, we’re grateful to Governor Wolf and the Pennsylvania House and Senate for putting children first this budget season.”
Additionally, lawmakers included $225 million for the Level Up equity supplement, which accelerates resources to the 100 most underfunded school districts. Teach Plus was part of the coalition to propose and pass a $100 million Level Up supplement for the first time in the 2021-22 budget, and Teach Plus teacher leaders advocated for Level Up to be a major part of this year’s budget. “Level Up is sorely needed in districts like mine, which is underfunded by over $5,000 per student per year,” said Luke Strawser, Teach Plus Policy Fellow from the Mount Union Area School District, one of the Level Up districts. “As the funding lawsuit has shown, students in the most underfunded districts are being denied their constitutional right to a ‘thorough and efficient’ education. Level Up represents a major step toward equity and addressing the needs of the poorest districts.”
The budget also includes $100 million for school-based mental health services and $100 million for school safety and security. In Funding Our Future, a report released by Teach Plus this spring, Teach Plus advocated for targeted investments in mental health because this was an area of particular concern to the 100 Pennsylvania teachers they interviewed. “At a time when the impact of COVID-19 on children’s and young people’s mental health is profound, this funding will help my school increase access to mental health professionals and trauma-informed care,” said Laura Sosik, Teach Plus Policy Fellow and teacher in the Scranton School District. “This funding will not only improve teaching and learning; it may actually save lives.”
While the budget does include a needed increase for publicly funded pre-K programs with an increase of $79 million for Pre-K Counts and Head Start, it fails to address the staffing crisis affecting the child care sector through a targeted wage supplement. Teach Plus will continue to advocate for our earliest learners and to ensure that early childhood care educators are fairly compensated.
Beyond the budget itself, the Pennsylvania school code bill also included several measures to address teacher shortages and teacher diversity that Teach Plus teacher leaders advocated for this year:
- Removing barriers for out-of-state teachers to get certified in Pennsylvania
- Improved data collection and transparency regarding the diversity of the educator workforce
- New youth pathways into teaching through dual enrollment and career and technical education
- Creation of a talent recruitment grant program to recruit more teachers in Pennsylvania
Teach Plus teacher leaders contributed to the development of several of these measures and advocated for all of them through meetings with legislators, op-eds, and other advocacy efforts. “Pennsylvania is facing a dire teacher shortage, and far too many students of color don’t have access to teachers who look like them,” said Durrell Burns, a Teach Plus Policy Fellow and teacher in the Harrisburg School District. “These measures are an important step toward rebuilding a strong and diverse teacher workforce in Pennsylvania.”
The school code also contains a new program to train teachers in the science of reading to improve student literacy outcomes. Teach Plus supported, contributed to, and advocated for the legislation this program was based on.
“Teach Plus is proud to have worked to raise awareness and support for these critical educational priorities this budget season, and we’re grateful to Governor Wolf and the General Assembly for making this a historic year for education,” said Zakiya Stewart, Teach Plus Pennsylvania Policy Manager. “We look forward to continuing to elevate the voices of teachers in policy conversations in the coming year and until all Pennsylvania’s students are provided equal opportunities to achieve their potential.”
About Teach Plus
The mission of Teach Plus is to empower excellent, experienced, and diverse teachers to take leadership over key policy and practice issues that affect their students’ success. Since 2009, Teach Plus has trained thousands of teacher leaders across the country who are driving policy changes and improving the instructional practices of teachers to create an education system driven by equity, access, and excellence for all students. teachplus.org
Contact: Laura Boyce, firstname.lastname@example.org, 215-429-5151