Acting Education Secretary Dr. Khalid Mumin sat down with House Appropriations Committee lawmakers to kick off the committee’s weeks-long series of budget hearings with the heads of state agencies and other entities that receive state funding.
Education is a key focus in Governor Josh Shapiro’s proposed $44.4 billion state budget proposal, with total spending in Pre-K-12 increasing by almost $900 million (or 5.6 percent), including a $567 million increase in basic education funding (an 8 percent increase); as well as a $104 million increase for special education, a new $100 million block grant to provide mental health services in schools and a new $100 million grant program for school environmental improvement capital projects.
Much of the hearing’s conversation about education funding revolved around a recent Commonwealth Court ruling that found the state system of funding public education unconstitutional based on inequities between school districts. Acting Secretary Mumin said that finding the right funding formula will require conversations between representatives and advocates. “I think the time is now,” he told committee members. “There is the willingness on both sides to make this happen, to make this work…”
He added that the administration’s goals in funding are to refine the basic education subsidy formula and end the huge disparities in district funding; as well as ensuring that trained counselors, social workers and psychologists are readily available to help students; and that remediation and abatement grants will help resolve environmental problems in school buildings like asbestos, lead and mold – efforts that the state Department of Environmental Protection and PennVEST are expected to help spearhead.