Seven big takeaways for education in the new Pa. budget
As Pennsylvania lawmakers finalized this year’s budget, a flurry of hotly-debated education proposals have been decided.
Below are the latest updates on seven major education issues — from funding to charters, school security to teacher evaluations — that made headlines in Harrisburg over the last few months.
No bump for the lowest-paid teachers
In Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget address, he called for a salary increase for the lowest-paid public school teachers in the state, saying they “have too often been getting the short end of the stick.”
Wolf wanted to raise the minimum annual salary for teachers from $18,500 — which was set in the 1980s — to $45,000.
Across the state, 180 out of 500 Pennsylvania school districts would have received money.
The Wolf administration estimated the change would affect about 3,200 teachers, school nurses, counselors and other professional staff members — many in rural parts of the state. It did not include charter school teachers. The cost was estimated at nearly $14 million — a relatively small amount in the state’s education budget.
But Republican leaders and the Pennsylvania School Boards Association warned that bumping up the minimum salary could lead to a ripple effect and higher salaries for all teachers, which would be funded by local taxpayers.
And some lawmakers expressed concern about how the salary money wouldn’t follow the state’s new student-weighted formula. Still, the proposal did receive some bipartisan support. And the Pennsylvania State Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, plans to advocate for the proposal in the fall.
“We are disappointed, but we are not defeated,” said PSEA spokesman Chris Lilienthal, adding that the salary push is relatively new in Pennsylvania. “Sometimes it takes a little bit longer for really big ideas to get across the finish line.”
During a new conference on Friday afternoon in the Capitol rotunda, Wolf echoed that idea.
Status: Not part of the budget package; could return in the fall.
More years in schools
Pennsylvania will raise the number of years that students are required to spend in schools.