Harrisburg – Governor Tom Corbett [on Friday] congratulated Pennsylvania’s students, parents, taxpayers, educators and school leaders for earning an “A” in academic achievement, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Leaders and Laggards: A State-by-State Report Card on K-12 Educational Effectiveness.
“Academic achievement is critically important to the future success of our students regardless if they choose to enter the workforce, continue on into postsecondary education or join the military following high school,” Gov. Corbett said. “Pennsylvania is only one of 10 states across the nation that have earned an ‘A.’ As a result of the significant financial investments and the reforms that have been made in education over the last four years, student achievement is putting the commonwealth at the forefront and making us a leader across the country.”
As noted in the chamber’s report, “student performance in Pennsylvania is very strong,” based upon results of the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which found that:
- 44 percent of fourth graders performed at or above grade level in math, compared to the national average of 42 percent;
- 40 percent of fourth graders performed at or above grade level in reading, compared to 34 percent nationally;
- 42 percent of eighth graders performed at or above grade level in math, compared to 34 percent nationally; and
- 42 percent of eighth graders performed at or above grade level in reading, compared to the national average of 35 percent.
Pennsylvania also received high marks for postsecondary and workforce readiness, and international competitiveness.
The 2014-15 state budget invests nearly $12 billion into early, basic and postsecondary education, which represents 41 percent of total state spending.
Under Corbett’s leadership over the last four years, the state invests more money for support of public schools now than at any time in the state’s history.
More than $10 billion has been allocated for public schools this year, which is an increase of $1.5 billion, or 17 percent, since the Governor took office.
This year’s budget also provides $374 million for the state’s high-quality early education programs, such as Pre-K Counts, Head Start Supplemental Assistance and Early Intervention. This is an increase of $19.5 million, or 5.5 percent, over last year.
Since taking office, Corbett has increased funding for early learning programs by $72 million, or 24 percent.
The state budget also allocates more than $1.6 billion for postsecondary education, such as student grants and institutional support.
New this year is the Governor’s Ready to Succeed Scholarship, which will offset the cost of postsecondary education for middle-income students.
This $5 million program provides up to $2,000 to eligible students whose families earn up to $110,000.
Since taking office, Governor Corbett has focused on increasing accountability and enhancing transparency of public schools.
In 2012, the Governor signed into law legislation that revised the state’s educator evaluation system for teachers and principals. The new system not only considers traditional teacher practice, such as observations and lesson planning, but also, for the first time, includes multiple measures of student achievement. This will provide educators with information about their strengths as well as areas that are in need of improvement.
Last year, the state launched the new School Performance Profile, which provides student, parents and taxpayers with comprehensive information on how public schools are performing.
The profile includes numerous indicators of a school’s academic health, such as student performance on the state assessments; student academic growth; graduation, promotion and attendance rates; advance placement course work; ACT; and SAT.
The Chamber’s report highlighted an area in need of significant attention: the state’s pension systems, which continue to consume a greater portion of the state budget.
“We are facing a pension crisis that will impact every taxpayer across Pennsylvania,” Corbett said. “Homeowners are facing rising property taxes due to out-of-control pension costs. In fact, pension costs for school districts across the state have increased by more than $1.9 billion – more than 282 percent – in the past 10 years. These escalating costs are absolutely unsustainable.”
The Governor noted the fiscal strain on the state and its taxpayers as a result of the pension crisis:
- Property taxes are rising: One hundred sixty-three school districts requested exemptions to increase property taxes, 99.4 percent of which cited pension costs as the reason for the exemption.
- Pension costs mean less money for important programs and services: Pension costs are consuming more than 60 cents of every new dollar of state general fund revenues.
- Our pension debt is growing quickly: Pennsylvania’s pension costs are approximately $50 billion, and in just three years, those costs will rise to $65 billion. Each Pennsylvania taxpayer would need to contribute approximately $13,000 to eliminate the current debt.
~ News Release via Pennsylvania’s Office of the Governor ~