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HARRISBURG UPDATES | School funding made a budget priority for cash-strapped districts

By Rep. Anita Kulik

As we wrap up budget season, education funding has been at the forefront of debate in both the House and Senate, and with the administration.

Millions of new dollars have been earmarked for public education. There remains debate as to whether the amount of dollars is enough, but the current allocation is a record amount and a step in the right direction.

I have sought to obtain greater funding for districts that are underfunded, such as Carlynton, Cornell and Sto-Rox. Districts without an expanding tax base need support from the commonwealth, as a whole.

The legislature and the administration are constitutionally bound to support public education. Article III, Section 14 of the Pennsylvania Constitution states:

“The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of this commonwealth.”

While supporting our public school systems remains the priority, programs have been established, such as the EITC tax incentive program, to give support to non-public schools and other entities that provide after-school and other educational programs for children.

I am the product of the parochial school system, and I will always recognize the importance and value of good non-public schools. Our country and our commonwealth, recognize the freedom of choice.

The House passed House Bill 27, which amends the school code to address the teacher shortages faced by many districts. This bill will remove the sunset provision to allow a school to hire an annuitant if an emergency or shortage of day-to-day substitute teachers occurs.

This bill also extends the temporary provisions that permit a prospective teacher to serve as a substitute for more than the allowable days and allows student teachers to serve as substitute teachers in the school they are assigned as a student teacher.

In addition to the debate on public school funding, the issue of state monies allocated to the University of Pittsburgh, Penn State, and Temple University remains unresolved at the time of this writing. Each year, the legislature votes to give these “non-preferred” state schools funding that the universities then put toward offsetting the in-state tuition discounts given to Pennsylvania residents.

The Senate passed the bill necessary to give this funding, but the House failed to pass the bill on more than one attempt, by the needed 2/3 vote.

House Republicans failed to provide the needed votes to bring the count to the 136 votes needed to pass the bill. Many members of the Republican party joined in the effort to pass this funding, but the effort came up a little short.

Negotiations continue, in the hopes that this funding can be put through, as many families wait to get their tuition bills for the upcoming year.

The legislature continues to work in a bi-partisan manner to honor our first responders.

These good people risk their safety for the sake of others. House Bill 358 passed the House with overwhelming bi-partisan support to provide for a new chapter in Title 35, Health and Safety.

The bill creates the Keystone First Responder Award to be given to first responders who died or suffered a career-ending injury in the line of duty.

Eligible first responders include an emergency medical services provider, firefighter or member of a rescue company, a peace officer, a 911 dispatcher, a coroner or medical examiner who has responded to an emergency, a corrections officer, a federal law enforcement officer, and a county or local emergency management coordinator. We must recognize that these people do indeed risk their very lives to support all of us.

This legislation is one small effort to support those who serve and protect us.



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