Senate Advances Key Education, School Safety Budget Priorities

HARRISBURG – The Senate approved budget implementation language today that will drive out critical funding to schools and present a more streamlined approach to school safety, according to Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward (R-39), Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman (R-41) and Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Scott Martin (R-13).

“Today, the Senate passed a bi-partisan education spending package that helps distressed schools, invests in mental health and safety for students, and provides parents with a greater say in their children’s education,” said Ward. “This collaborative effort is a great step in the right direction to address some our most important education funding matters.”

House Bill 301 allocates funding for several critical priorities that were included in the 2023-24 state budget, including:

  • $100 million for K-12 mental health programs for schools.
  • An additional $150 million for education tax credits to provide scholarships to students through the existing Education Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) programs.
  • $295 million for Ready-to-Learn Block Grants.
  • More than $261 million for community colleges.
  • More than $76 million in Special Education funding for Intermediate Units.
  • $10 million to create a new Educator Pipeline Support Grant Program to provide grants to student teachers.
  • $46.5 million in reimbursements to school entities that participate in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs.
  • More than $70 million in state aid to public libraries.
  • $14.5 million in funding for career and technical schools.
  • $7 million to assist distressed schools.

“I am grateful and thankful today the Senate in a bi-partisan way has overwhelmingly passed legislation to support educational opportunities in our commonwealth,” Pittman said. “This bill empowers parents, increases school safety, and helps to improve educational facilities. I am very proud we have come together to move forward and help students. One step at a time we have worked to address tough issues, and one step at a time we will continue our work.”

The bill would also ensure greater collaboration in keeping children safe in the classroom by consolidating school safety programs and operations under the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD), which currently manages the highly successful School Safety and Security Grant Program created by Senate Republicans in 2018.

“For many years, Senate Republicans have led efforts to promote safer schools, even when the previous Administration tried to cut their funding. Streamlining and improving our approach to school safety will ensure we can build on the progress we’ve made to safeguard our classrooms,” Martin said. “I am grateful we are able to advance critical funding to help more students learn in the environment that best meets their unique educational needs through the EITC and OSTC programs. For too long, families have endured incredible waiting lists just to participate in these programs because of arbitrary financial caps, even though there are many other donors willing to contribute to this program. This is another big win for Pennsylvania’s students and their families.”

The legislation transfers several functions of the Office of Safe Schools – including the Safe Schools Targeted Grants for school safety equipment and programs and School Police Officers/School Resource Officers – to PCCD. School districts would also be required to share additional information on the number and type of School Police Officers and School Resource Officers, as well as data on powers granted to those entities.

Under the plan, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, the Pennsylvania State Police and the Office of Homeland Security would provide assistance in developing a safe schools collaborative and providing data on the number requests for assistance from schools.

The bill also removes the requirement for schools to make Social Security payments from their Basic Education appropriation, and provides additional flexibility for schools to fill substitute teaching positions.

House Bill 301 was approved by a 45-5 vote and was sent back to the House of Representatives for consideration.

CONTACT: Erica Clayton Wright (Sen. Ward) 
Kate Flessner (Sen. Pittman) 
Jason Thompson (Sen. Martin) 

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