The 2023-2024 Pennsylvania budget was enacted after an over month long impasse. Governor Josh Shapiro signed the budget into law, which enables the state to begin making payments to school districts and other entities. Before he signed the bill, the governor used his authority to veto a $100 million line item appropriation for a tuition voucher program for private and religious schools called the Pennsylvania Award for Student Success Scholarship (PASS). The inclusion of the appropriation was a point of contention between Republicans who support the program and Democrats who oppose it, which lead to the stalemate.
Work on the state budget is not complete without enactment of companion legislation, commonly referred to as “code bills” such as the Fiscal Code which provide for the distribution of funds. The state is expected to begin payments to schools for basic and special education subsidies that are due, funds for other education initiatives are still on hold until the code bills are finalized. Those funds will not be distributed without other legislation that creates the program and tells how those funds are to be spent. Those programs related to education spending include the Level Up supplements, federal ARPA funding for school mental health grants, and funds for a new stipend program for student teachers. The Senate is expected to return to Harrisburg on August 30 and the House is scheduled to reconvene on September 26.
It is important to note that your advocacy helped to increase the amount of funds going to school districts in Pennsylvania.
Top Level Highlights of the Enacted Budget
Basic Education Funding (BEF) Subsidy: The BEF subsidy received an overall increase of $567 million for a total of $7.87 billion. (Social Security has been separated out and has its own line item.)
Level-Up Supplement: The budget provides $100 million for supplemental funding to 100 school districts. However, legislation is needed to specifically state how those funds will be disbursed.
Special Education Funding (SEF): The budget boosts funding for special education by $50 million, a 3.7% increase, for a total of $1.38 billion.
Ready to Learn Block Grant: A total of $295.5 million is included for the program.
Career and Technical Education: Funding for career and technical education is increased by $14 million for a total of $119 million. This is a 13.3% increase over last year. The budget also includes a $9.45 million increase for Career and Technical Education Equipment Grants for a total of $15 million.
School Food Services: The budget includes a $46 million increase in funding to provide universal free breakfast to all public school students regardless of income and free lunch to all students who are eligible for reduced-price lunches through the National School Lunch Program.
Stipends for Student Teachers: $10 million is allocated for a new program to support student teachers. However, legislation is needed to specifically state how those funds will be disbursed.
Early Childhood Education: Early intervention funding receives a $10 million increase for a total of $356.8 million. Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts is level funded at $302.28 million. The Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program is also level funded at $88.1 million.
School Safety and Security Fund: The budget provides $150 million, which is a decrease of $50 million. There is $50 million allocated for physical safety grants; this is a decrease from the $100 million that was provided in 2022-23.
Mental Health: The budget includes $100 million is for school-based mental health grants by redirecting federal American Rescue Plan (ARPA) funds that were originally designated for comprehensive mental health services across all populations. However, legislation is needed to specifically state how those funds will be disbursed.
Trauma-Informed Education: The budget provides $750 thousand for this program.
Teacher Professional Development: The budget provides level funding at $5.04 million.
School Employees’ Retirement: The budget provides approximately $2.99 billion to cover the state’s share of pension costs.
School Employees’ Social Security: The budget provides $621.7 million for the state’s share of Social Security costs.
Pupil Transportation: Funding for pupil transportation is set at $593.1 million. This line item will continue to be regularly adjusted as data is provided to PDE and the legislature regarding formula inputs that dictate funding levels. Nonpublic and charter school transportation is set at $72.25 million.
State Assessment: Funding for state and federal testing programs, including the Keystone Exams and PSSAs, is set at $48 million