Hughes: 'No budget without restoring funding for education'
As negotiations continue in Harrisburg in hopes of solving the state’s budget, and in light of the falling state standardized test scores, State Senator Vincent Hughes said there should be no state budget without restoring the proper funds for school districts.
Statewide data show that the proficiency rates of students on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment test have dropped precipitously, especially in math – in some grades by as much as 40 percentage points compared to last year, according the The Notebook.
“In about four weeks schools will open up across the Commonwealth. Many of them will have an uncertain opening and an uncertain future, largely related to the lack of financial support,” Hughes said. “High standards are appropriate, but the thing that’s the crime in this is not having the resources available to meet those standards.”
The senator said the lack of funding is an issue legislators cannot talk themselves out of, and that the statewide test scores clearly indicate that “we cannot leave the table without full restoration (of funding).”
He added that without full restoration of the funding, and a Marcellus Shale tax, there will be no state budget. “I think is more evident why at the very least in this budget negotiation we cannot walk away without the funds the governor has called for in his budget request. That is most important,” Hughes said.
Last march, Gov. Tom Wolf proposed a budget that provides billions of dollars in relief from school district property taxes and a $400 million increase in funding for basic education, which would bring the total to a new high-water mark of $6.1 billion.
However according to the AP, Thursday’s budget negotiators are still grappling with unresolved issues and plan to talk again next week.
“I think we have a tentative agreement on the fact that pensions and education funding are going to have to be part of a final budget discussion, final budget agreement," House Majority Leader Dave Reed told reporters. "I don't think we necessarily have the framework in place. There are a lot of items to be worked out," AP reported.