Pennsylvania’s prosperity depends upon a well-educated workforce. The PA Chamber supports an education system that establishes clear accountability and provides every child with the opportunity to receive a quality education that will adequately prepare them for gainful employment or further education. This includes initiatives that provide families with options to best fit the specific education needs of students. We also promote workforce development programs that aim to close the jobs skills gap.
Pennsylvania’s 21st century economy increasingly requires those entering or participating in the workforce to obtain specific skills, training and, at a minimum, fundamental education, which is most commonly attained through the public school system. Unfortunately, a growing sentiment throughout the employer community is indicative of the education and workforce challenges facing the Commonwealth.
For example, the PA Chamber’s annual economic survey conducted in 2018 showed, for the first time in the survey’s history, that finding qualified employees was the most common top concern among employers. This trend continued, and was even more pronounced in the 2019 survey. Confronting this challenge demands participation of and enhanced coordination among stakeholders, including public schools, which must continue to review and improve the manner in which students are educated and prepared for the workforce, higher education or whatever path they choose.
Education funding is an important part of the discussion but not a panacea, as evidenced by Pennsylvania K-12 education spending historically ranking among the highest in the nation. According to 2017 U.S. Census data, Pennsylvania has the 7th highest per pupil expenditure in the country and state-level per-pupil funding well above the national average. Despite this strong investment in public education, students too often find they are not academically prepared for a career or further education. This is not unique to Pennsylvania: a 2016 report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress concluded that only about a third of U.S. high school seniors are prepared for college-level coursework in math and reading.
As employers and taxpayers, the PA Chamber members know these trends must change to help foster a vibrant economy and success for Pennsylvania’s children. Therefore, the Chamber supports systematic improvements to Pennsylvania's public education system that will increase the quality of education and overall student achievement: