HARRISBURG, Pa. (ErieNewsNow) - Education advocates are celebrating historic investments in the 2022-23 Pennsylvania budget, signed by Governor Tom Wolf last Friday. 

Included is a $525 million increase in Basic Education Funding for all 500 school districts, $225 million for Pennsylvania’s poorest 100 school districts known as Level Up, $100 million for special education funding, $100 million in one-time grants for school districts to address safety, and another $100 million in one-time grants for school districts to address mental health. 

Wolf proposed a $1.75 billion increase in K-12 funding in his February budget proposal, his last as Governor. Both Gov. Wolf and fair-funding advocates, including petitioners in the Fair Funding trial, would have liked to see more, but say the historic increase calls for celebration. 

“We're certainly celebrating that these are bigger increases than we've seen before. They’re significant new investments in public education that our students desperately need, and will benefit many children,” said Deborah Gordon Klehr, the Executive Director of the Education Law Center, one of the two law centers that represented petitioners in the fair funding trial. “These investments are an important acknowledgment by Harrisburg legislators of how big of a hole they've dug for our students over decades of neglect,” she added. 

The trial concluded with closing arguments in March. A decision has yet to be made by Commonwealth Court. Petitioners filed the suit which began last November over what they call the state’s failure to provide an adequate and equitable public-school education for students across the commonwealth. 

Gordon Klehr says even though the funding increase is a win, there’s still work that needs to be done. 

“These are necessary increases, and we still need a systemic solution,” said Gordon Klehr. “Our school funding lawsuit and our advocacy work will continue until Pennsylvania provides adequate, equitable funding in every community,” she added. 

The trial brought public education funding and education choice to center-stage in Harrisburg during a statewide election cycle. 

For many, the debate over school choice is driven by how public charters are funded. Public school districts currently fund public-charters even though they are operated independently. Advocates for fair funding have been calling for charter reform and praised Gov. Wolf’s charter regulations, which were approved for charter and cyber charter schools in March. However, the regulations were repealed in the new budget. 

Republican lawmakers who support school choice, called the regulations punitive. School choice advocates say they’re happy to see the regulations gone and are celebrating the historic budget as well. 

“We really appreciated the work that was done, and the nonpartisan work that was done on this budget. Putting children first. We're very thankful for that,” said Dr. Anne Clark, CEO of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools. 

Dr. Clark says she appreciates that the regulations are not going into effect and says they would have had a negative impact on smaller charter schools. For example, having to match insurance with the authorizing school district. 

“For a larger charter school, that may not be as much of an issue because there's a lot of staff that they're purchasing for. But in our very small charter schools, that would be a huge financial burden to try to match what's happening in the authorizing district, so that was one area that we felt was a big relief,” said Dr. Clark. 

Dr. Clark said she’s looking forward to working with the PA Department of Education (PDE) to find solutions and to advance school choice opportunities for students. She says it’s also important to support all teachers and students as they cope with lingering impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic. 

“For them to really invest in education at this time is just perfect timing and the entire charter school community really appreciates it. We really want to make sure that we understand that support is needed too, not just money. You know, money is great, but we do need a lot of support coming down from PDE,” said Dr. Clark. 


Expected Increases in the 2022-23 Basic Education Funding for local school districts: 

Erie County 

Corry Area SD: +$791,403 (+ $538,123 Level Up) 

Erie City SD: +$9,144,349 (+$6,672,321 Level Up) 

Fairview SD: + $393,360 

Fort LeBoeuf SD: + $335,776 

General McLane SD: + $527,541 

Girard SD: + $101,394 (+ $341,767 Level Up) 

Harbor Creek SD: + $448,963 

Iroquois SD: + $902,471 

Millcreek Township SD: + $1,143,921 

North East SD: + $417,852 

Northwestern SD: $161,119 (+$205,827 Level Up) 

Union City Area SD: + $395,700 

Wattsburg Area SD: + $510,834 


Mercer County 

Commodore Perry SD: + $145,187 

Farrell Area SD: +$1,328,889 (+ $732,984 Level Up) 

Greenville Area SD: + $492,112 (+ $344,472 Level Up) 

Grove City Area SD: + $303,596  

Hermitage SD: + $489,994 

Jamestown Area SD: + $115,923 

Lakeview SD: + $173,394 

Mercer Area SD: + $213,441 (+ $159,627 Level Up) 

Reynolds SD: + $373,296 

Sharon City SD: + $1,631,087 (+$1,255,137 Level Up) 

Sharpsville Area SD: + $393,811 

West Middlesex Area SD: + $96,397 


Venango County 

Cranberry Area SD: + $380,563 

Franklin Area SD: + $453,085 (+ $357,020 Level Up) 

Oil City Area SD: + $818,717 (+ $573,013 Level Up) 

Titusville Area SD: + $940,433 

Valley Grove SD: + $315,660 


Crawford County 

Conneaut SD: + $625,114 

Crawford Central SD: + $1,376,945 

Penncrest SD: + $535,377 


Warren County 

Warren County SD: + $1,343,151