‘Stay tuned for our budget’: Pa. Lt. Gov. Davis teases Shapiro’s spending priorities
The question of how Pennsylvania policymakers will meet a state court’s mandate to fix the commonwealth’s school funding system could loom large when Gov. Josh Shapiro makes his first budget address to a joint session of the state House and Senate next week.
During an appearance before the Pennsylvania Press Club on Monday, Lt. Gov. Austin Davis told a mixed crowd of journalists, business leaders, public relations professionals, and, notably, Harrisburg High School students, to “stay tuned” for Shapiro’s speech on March 7 because “there’s going to be a lot to say about creating an equitable education system in Harrisburg.”
Earlier this month, in a landmark ruling, Commonwealth Court President Judge Renée Cohn Jubelirer said that the General Assembly has failed to uphold its constitutional obligation to provide all children a “thorough and efficient” education system by depriving students in school districts with low property values and incomes of the same resources and opportunities of children in wealthier ones.
Jubelirer left it up to policymakers to come up with the solution to a multi-billion dollar problem that has vexed governors and lawmakers alike for years, writing in a sprawling order that it is “now the obligation of the Legislature, executive branch, and educators to make the constitutional promise a reality in this commonwealth.”
Davis, a former state House lawmaker until his election to the No. 2 spot last November, made his comments in response to a question asking him how the Democratic administration planned to fix a “lackluster education system in Harrisburg.”
Davis noted that policymakers had been “arguing about equitable funding for education for years, I think we need to actually start fixing our education system, we need to start funding schools in low income areas at a better rate.
“… One of my projects in the state House … there was a property tax reform commission that .. did a look at the state property tax, inherently, that system creates a situation of haves and have nots,” he said. “If you live in an area with with lower income and lower property values, your schools are going to be under-resourced. And so we have to figure out a way to drive more funding more equitably to the school districts. And I will say stay tuned for our budget, because I think … there’s going to be a lot to say about creating an equitable education system in Harrisburg.”
Speaking to reporters after his remarks, Davis declined to offer further details, saying he believed it was a matter better left to Shapiro.
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