HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's pursuit of a major election-year tax increase has decades of precedent against it: No such tax increase has passed the Pennsylvania Legislature in an election year since at least 1970. Still, with the general election eight months away, and schools warning that they may close amid historic partisan budget gridlock, Wolf is trying to do just that. He is asking perhaps Pennsylvania's most conservative Legislature in modern history to pass a $2.7 billion tax hike that amounts to almost 10 percent of last year's total operating budget spending. Many inside the Capitol suggest an election-year tax increase is about as likely as catching Bigfoot or a Philadelphia Phillies World Series victory this October, and even less so before the April 26 primary election. "I would characterize it as a glimmer of hope after the primary that reasonable minds may prevail," said Rep. Nick Kotik, D-Allegheny.
Pennsylvania's schools are struggling. It didn't happen overnight, and it’s not the result of the budget impasse. Right now, Gov. Tom Wolf is fighting to make sure that all schools have the sustainable resources they need to provide a high-quality education for our students, but the Legislature continues to stand in the way. Gov. Wolf has proposed historic investments that would put Pennsylvania’s schools on the right track after years of devastating cuts. But instead of working with the governor to help fix our schools, Republicans simply sent him another out-of-balance budget that would cut $95 million from education and grow the deficit. For years, Pennsylvania's schools have been underfunded. The previous administration cut $1 billion from public education, which resulted in teacher layoffs, program cuts and higher property taxes. But in addition to the previous administration’s cuts, schools' finances have been structurally damaged by the lack of funding over the course of the past five years.
WHILE MAKING education a central platform of his mayoral campaign last year, Jim Kenney joined dozens of ACTION United parents, teachers and staff and community members at Comegys school last spring to announce ambitious and exciting plans to open 25 new community schools in his first term. Council President Darrell Clarke also is talking about community schools as part of the solution to our education crisis. We applaud Kenney's goal of trying to redress decades of underinvestment in minority communities with community schools, but he and Clarke, along with Schools Superintendent Hite and the School Reform Commission, should take the right steps to ensure the schools are truly transformational for students and the community. For at least a decade, the dominant idea about how to improve outcomes for children and youth has focused on control and compliance, but this approach has proved least effective for our most vulnerable students. Community schools, whose integrated approach to education includes in-house health services and community engagement, have been gaining traction across the country as a powerful alternative to public schools. One city that has shown spectacular results with turning public schools into publicly run community schools is Cincinnati. In 2003, before introducing community schools in Cincinnati, only 51 percent of all students graduated. However, in 2014, when 34 out of 55 schools had adopted the community-school strategy, 82 percent of all students graduated.
- the current budget impasse
- the basics of education funding
- the school funding lawsuit
- the 2016-2017 proposed budget
House Majority Leader Rep. Dave Reed, (717) 705-7173
Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Joe Scarnati, (717) 787-7084
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Jake Corman, (717) 787-1377