Harrisburg, PA – December 14, 2023 – Senator Vincent Hughes, Senator Democratic Appropriations Chair, released the following statement in response to the passage of House Bill 301 and House Bill 1300, budget codes that enable important initiatives and funding for teachers, criminal defense, and the eradication of toxic schools.
Senator Hughes shared the following statement:
“I’m incredibly proud that the Senate and House have come to agreement on a school code bill that delivers for both students and teachers in Pennsylvania. When we negotiate a budget, we’re really showing the people of Pennsylvania what we consider a priority. My priority will always be students, our teachers, and our school administrators.
A major piece of the school code that was passed in HB301 was our student teacher stipend program, created with legislation that I introduced in the spring. Right now, the teacher shortage crisis in Pennsylvania is impacting rural, suburban, and urban areas. What we’ve done is implement a brand new, bipartisan solution that will help improve our teacher pipeline and also attract a more diverse set of teachers. It sends a clear message that we value teachers and the profession they’re choosing to commit to.
$175 million for the School Environmental Repair Program is another big win for Pennsylvania public schools. With this funding, we can address toxic and broken schools that are unacceptable environments for children to be learning in. No student should be exposed to harmful elements like lead, asbestos, and mold in their school building. This investment will ensure that we’re providing healthy learning spaces for our students.
And I’m thrilled to see legislation that I introduced to support our public defenders pass in House Bill 1300. Pennsylvania is the only state that provides no state funding for public defender offices. Now, that will change. Public defenders are a cornerstone of a fair and just criminal justice system. With this new legislation, PA’s public defense system will become better for the clients it serves and the hard-working lawyers who are some of the best in their field.
These budget codes support a number of other Democratic priorities including more money for police training and a dependent care tax credit. All of these investments will make our communities stronger and directly impact the lives of Pennsylvanians. While there’s more work to do, it’s important to recognize the people and communities who these programs and investments will impact. These aren’t wins for the lawmakers, these are wins for the people of Pennsylvania.”