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PA state education secretary makes his case for $1.1 billion budget proposal

Dr. Khalid Mumin, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Dept. of Education, speaks at an event on December 14, 2023.
Anthony Grove
Commonwealth Media Services
FILE - Dr. Khalid Mumin, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Dept. of Education (PDE), speaks at an event on December 14, 2023.

Under Pennsylvania’s system of funding schools, wealthy communities with high local tax bases can adequately fund their schools.

But poorer communities cannot.

This means districts in high-income communities, such as North Allegheny School District, are able to meet the needs of their students better than districts in low-income areas such as Reading.

In February 2023, the Commonwealth Court found this system of funding schools is so unfair to poorer districts as to be unconstitutional.

In response to that ruling, the Basic Education Funding Commission approved a plan for schools to receive more than $5 billion over seven years to help them function adequately.

Speaking at a teachers’ conference this week, Secretary of Education Khalid Mumin said this could bridge the gap.

“The time is now for us to take full advantage of this opportunity to be able to level the playing field for our learners,” he said.

Gov. Josh Shapiro is calling for $1.1 billion to be invested in basic education this year. That’s almost twice what was spent last year.

Mumin said he will not budge from seeking the $1.1 billion, as research by the bipartisan commission clearly identified this inequity as a problem.

Last year’s budget negotiations bogged down in a disagreement over funding school vouchers. But there was broad agreement on the spending plan for basic education.

Without that vouchers fight derailing talks this year, Mumin said he’s hopeful the legislature will pass Shapiro’s budget.

As a result, Mumin is hopeful the legislature will pass Shapiro’s proposal for this year.

“In the midst of all the discussions around choice and other things, the legislature came together and supported that $567 million investment,” he said.

Mumin said there are still things that need to be addressed.

For example, last year, the state began funding universal free breakfast for students. Free lunch could be next.

He said the $1.1 billion investment in basic education creates room for “ideas, aspirational goals for the future of education in the commonwealth.”