Wolf, Pittsburgh school administrators discuss proposed funding
May 19, 2015 11:47 PM
Gov. Tom Wolf listens to Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Linda Lane today before his Schools That Teach roundtable discussion at Pittsburgh Roosevelt PreK-5 School in Carrick.
Gov. Tom Wolf, center, is flanked by Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Linda Lane, right,, and Assistant Superintendent Dara Ware Allen during today's roundtable discussion.
By Clarece Polke / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Gov. Tom Wolf called for increased accountability to accompany a proposed increase in state funding for education during a panel discussion with administrators from Pittsburgh Public Schools.
“I need you to do a good job,” he told attendees during Tuesday’s panel. “But you can’t do a good job if you’re starving for resources that you don't have.”
Increased state resources for supplemental support services and programs for at-risk students along with more expansive curriculum development were among the topics of discussion at Pittsburgh Roosevelt PreK-5 in Carrick.
Superintendent Linda Lane said the district could use the additional funding for key programs like its Summer Dreamers Academy — a program aimed at children academically below grade level and those from low-income families who might fall behind during the summer months — college and career readiness programs, as well as the expansion of the district’s pre-K program.
Derrick Hardy, principal of Pittsburgh Milliones 6-12, was among the handful of administrators who gave brief presentations. Mr. Hardy spoke to the limited mental health support for students in areas with high concentrations of poverty and the importance of having full-time mental health professionals available for students.
“What we would like to see in some of our highest-need schools — serving the Hill District community, the Garfield community, the Homewood community — would be a commitment to service providers,” he said. “Sometimes you may have high mobility rates with children due to unemployment or families due to unemployment rates … or due to traumatic life events, they have to relocate multiple schools in one year. Who is responsible for managing that independent of the 699 other families that the school has to serve?”
In March the governor proposed a 7 percent increase in basic education funding for a total of $6.13 billion. The proposal also included an additional $120 million for PreK Counts and Head Start Supplemental Assistance, both of which provide preschool education. Carol Barone-Martin, executive director of early childhood education for PPS, said approximately 500 pre-school aged students in the district are waiting for services, in addition to the 2,000 pre-K students who are already enrolled.”
“The success of education is going to be reflected in the lives of the people who come out of our schools,” Mr. Wolf said. “The taxpayers in Pennsylvania get to ask the question, ‘What do I get for that?’ ‘Where is my money going?’ ”
The budget has met opposition from organizations including the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, in addition to Republican legislators. In a strongly worded letter to the chamber Monday, Mr. Wolf accused business leaders putting “oil and gas special interests” over the priority to fix public schools amid a backlash over a proposed severance tax.
“There’s going to be some posturing,” he said when asked about the timeline of when the budget would pass. “This is my first budget, so I’m sure I’m going to get poked in the eye, but there are things that make me confident that we’re going to get a budget fairly quickly this year.”
Luke Nozicka: email@example.com or 412-263-1719. Clarece Polke: firstname.lastname@example.org; 412-263-1889; Twitter: @clarepolke.
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