“You know it’s a good deal when no one walks away happy.”

March 15, 2023 | Sharon Sedlar

A real estate agent once told me, “You know it’s a good deal when no one walks away happy.”  His comment speaks to balance.

Governor Shapiro delivered his first budget address last week and I’m relieved that few seem ‘happy’.  He made some tough calls, and chose to focus on what I think are reasonable steps forward with focus on public school students, providing increase in the Basic Education Fund that keeps pace with inflation.  And let’s face it – all progress for Pennsylvania students does not lay in the hands of only the Governor’s office, but also the hands of our legislators.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education offers far more detail on education funding, but to summarize, Governor Shapiro has put forth a budget providing increased Basic Education Funding, increased Special Education Funding, Ready to Learn Block Grant inclusion and CTE subsidy, a new School-Based Mental Health Block Grant ($100,000 grant provided to district schools, and $70,000 grant to charter schools), and a re-start of the PlanCon program that offers district construction cost reimbursement that has been placed on hold since 2015.

Governor Shapiro has also included a plan to provide universal free breakfast for every school-aged student AND free lunches for the 22,000 Pennsylvania children current eligible for reduced-price lunches, plus a plan to retain and attract teachers with a tax credit.

The Governor is focusing on many extremely noteworthy issues within his budget that are building, staff, and most of all, student focused.  But it stops with public school students. Governor Shapiro’s previous support of the Lifeline Scholarship program is missing, as are his sentiments on support for education choice:

“This is not an either/or. This is a both/and. We have to find ways to come together on this issue… It starts by making sure our public schools are fully funded… We do a disservice to our children when we try and take away opportunities from them.

We need to make sure all God’s children have the opportunity to succeed and it starts by making sure every single one of them, regardless of their socio-economic status, regardless of the zip code they’re from, or regardless of their skin color, get an opportunity to succeed… We can have choice in our school system and we can have well funded schools… We can do both those things together.”

-Governor Shapiro

So where that leaves us in terms of Governor Shapiro’s education choice policy in action remains a question mark.  Those for and against education choice policies are walking away “not happy” with his proposal – but that’s how you know he struck a balance.  Where he ‘tips’ in upcoming months and budgets remains to be seen.

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