Pittsburgh, Pa. − October 11, 2023 − Senator Lindsey M. Williams (D-Allegheny), Minority Chair of the Senate Education Committee, hosted the Basic Education Funding Commission for their Pittsburgh hearing, the first in the series of state-wide hearings to be held in Western Pennsylvania.
Today’s hearing, which was held at Pittsburgh Public Schools Westinghouse Academy 6-12, featured two panels of testimony from educators, experts, and advocates.
Today’s first panel focused on Career and Technical Education (CTE) and included testimony from Angela Mike, Director of CTE, Pittsburgh Public Schools and Dr. Darby Copeland, President, Pennsylvania Association of Career & Technical Administrators, Executive Director, Parkway West.
“CTE students receive hands-on instruction in labs equipped with state-of-the-art equipment that mirror real-world work environments,” said Ms. Mike. “Taught by teachers who are industry professionals in their respective fields, our students learn how to use the tools, techniques, software and hardware necessary to enter the world of work.”
Ms. Mike shared several stories of recent Pittsburgh Public Schools CTE graduates who are succeeding in their chosen fields, saying, “There are thousands of success stories like these that could be shared by the CTE providers in our state. But there are challenges in continuing to provide quality programs that will yield the kind of results that our students need and that our economy demands.” CBS Morning recently featured PPS CTE programs and their benefits to students. You can watch that video here.
“Most CTCs lack minimum funding required to enhance existing programs and under current budgeting practices, are unable to open new programs necessary to support regional workforce and economic development,” said Dr. Copeland. Specifically, CTE programs face increasingly high costs for large equipment, transportation, certification vouchers, and technology updates. As a result, the programs rely heavily on workforce partnerships and grant funding to remain operational and current. This inconsistent funding leads CTCs and districts to be unable to update their facilities adequately, to limit program enrollment, or to not offer new programs.
Today’s second panel focused on the impacts of early childhood education, special education, and the need for additional student supports within a school building. It included testimony from Dr. Robert Scherrer, Executive Director, Allegheny Intermediate Unit; Emily Neff, Director of Public Policy, Trying Together; Jeni Hergenreder, Esq., Staff Attorney, Disability Rights Pennsylvania; and Dr. Laura Ward, Past-President Pennsylvania School Librarians Association, Librarian at Fox Chapel Area School District.
“A ‘thorough and efficient’ system of education begins even before kindergarten,” said Dr. Scherrer. Ms. Neff continued, “Research has shown both short- and long-term academic and health benefits for children who attended high-quality pre-k. The impacts are even greater for children facing systemic economic and social challenges, helping to reduce achievement gaps between low-income and affluent children.” Ensuring that all families have access to high-quality pre-K was an important component in the Court’s school funding decision.
“The Basic Education Funding Commission has been tasked with something bigger than just tweaking our education funding formula,” said Senator Williams. “The Courts have told us we need to finally fund an education system that addresses adequacy and equity for all students. By fully and fairly funding these resources that students need—access to high quality pre-K, career training programs, mental health resources, school librarians, and other caring support staff throughout the building—we will begin to improve student outcomes and equity for all students.”
Full video and written testimony from today’s hearing can be found at SenatorLindseyWilliams.com/BEFC.