Education Secretary Gerald Zahorchak is defending a proposed 444 million dollar budget increase for his department as an investment in Pennsylvania’s economy.
About three-quarters of the spending increase would go toward basic education funding for school districts, which Governor Rendell is committed to increasing again this year.
Zahorchak says steadily upping the money Pennsylvania spends on K through 12 education is paying off and he urges the state’s next governor to continue the trend.
"We’ve gone from 50 percent of our kids on grade level to 72 percent. The vast majority of our kids, about two-thirds in high school, are ready for a track that will take them to AP Calculus. This is never-before readiness for better things. The new governor should be working on the next level. How can I make sure a hundred percent of my kids are getting the opportunity to do things like AP Calculus?"
All the Democratic candidates say they’d commit to expanding early childhood funding.
Dan Onorato and Joe Hoeffel say they’d continue the policy of increasing basic education spending, but Jack Wagner and Anthony Williams have both shied away from making that promise.
Zahorchak says both areas are important.
"I would put pre-k and basic education in one envelope. You can’t do one well without the other. Basic education needs pre-k, and a pre-k education that feeds into a system of basic education that isn’t ready can no doubt impact the effect of the early childhood education system."
On the Republican side, Tom Corbett says he’d stick to expanding early childhood funding. Sam Rohrer would not, saying more spending isn’t the solution.
In all, Rendell wants to spend 5.2 billion state dollars on basic education, as well as 654 million federal stimulus dollars. The governor’s budget proposes slight decreases in Pre-K and Head Start funding. Total education spending would come in at 9.9 billion dollars.