Wilkes hosts House Democratic Policy Committee Hearing

On April 5, Wilkes University hosted the House Democratic Policy Committee Hearing, which focused on the topic, “Education Funding.”

Members of the panel included: David Volkman, the Executive Deputy Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Dr. Bernard Prevuznak, Superintendent of Wilkes-Barre Area School District, Andrew Kuhl, Superintendent of Hanover Area School District, Dr. Anthony Grieco, Executive Director of the Luzerne Intermediate Unite 18, Susan Gobreski, Executive Director of the Education Voters of Pennsylvania, and Jeff Ney, Northeasters Region President of the Pennsylvania State Education Association.

David Volkman was the first to speak and provided a detailed overview of Governor Wolf’s plan for education funding.

To begin, he discussed the negative aspects about funding that were brought about by the previous administration. Volkman said that the poverty level is on the rise and that the region is currently dealing with a poverty crisis, not an education crisis.

The problems with education are a direct result of the increasing poverty. Because of this increase, schools are receiving less money from property taxes, so the districts must depend on a majority of their funding to come from the state government.

Gov. Wolf is attempting to fix the damage that was done over the past four years, which was caused by one billion dollars worth of funding cuts in school districts across Pennsylvania.

Despite the substantial cuts that have been made to education, Gov. Wolf has proposed a contract that will get education funding back to where it used to be.

The current funding in Pennsylvania is less than 30 percent, and compared to education funding across the country, that is the lower end of the spectrum. Because of this, property taxes are increased to make up for the lack of funding.

To counteract this, Gov. Wolf plans to spend $1.15 billion of the states budget on education in general. To split it up, $9 million will go toward dual enrollment courses, $16 million for cyber schools, and $140 million for colleges.

This funding will also allow for a 75 percent enrollment increase in pre-kindergarten (pre-k) programs. This means an additional 14,000 students receiving education prior to starting kindergarten. The children who do not have the financial means to attend pre-k programs are 18 months behind their peers who could afford a pre-k education. Now, children will have the opportunity to be on the same level when they begin schooling.

The increased funding from the state will also cut property taxes by over 50 percent. Specifically in Luzerne County, residents will be able to save over 800 dollars in property taxes. This would make a huge difference since the median property tax in Luzerne County is $1,152.