Browne, Schlossberg, Schweyer secure $10 million for Allentown School District
HARRISBURG, June 22 – Senate Appropriations Chairman Pat Browne and Representatives Mike Schlossberg and Peter Schweyer, both D-Lehigh, today announced they secured a $10 million supplement for the Allentown School District in the Fiscal Year 2018-19 General Fund Budget which passed the state Senate and House of Representatives and will be sent to the governor for his signature.
“I applaud the great work new Allentown School District Superintendent Thomas Parker and the Allentown School Board, led by board President Charlie Thiel, have done to reduce an overwhelming $28 million deficit the school district faced this year. The decisions they made were not easy, but they made them for the betterment of the school, its students and without reducing the teaching staff which Allentown School District could not afford to have happened,” Browne said. “It is critical that the state provides the necessary resources to school districts, especially those in challenged areas like Allentown, to ensure all Pennsylvania students have access to a quality education. I am pleased to have worked with my colleagues in the House, Representatives Schlossberg and Schweyer, to provide this vital funding.”
The $10 million included in the $32.7 billion state budget will ensure that the 2018-19 Allentown School District budget will balance with no teacher layoffs or program cuts.
“This is a major win for Allentown students, teachers and taxpayers. The additional funding we supported will help ensure that our children can get the kind of high quality education they deserve, and there is nothing more important than that to the success of our community,” Schlossberg said. “Bipartisan cooperation has to be more than just a catchphrase – it needs to be a way of governing. In these polarized times, I am glad to still work with my friends on both sides of the aisle to deliver for our students.”
In addition to the $10 million through the Ready to Learn Block Grant Program, Allentown School District will receive a Basic Education Funding amount of $110.5 million this year. That is a $4.2 million or 3.8 percent increase over the previous year. It will also see its Special Education Funding amount increase by just over $260,000 or 2.4 percent over last year to $11.1 million.
“Today is a very good day for students and their families, the faculty and the taxpayers of Allentown School District,” Schweyer said. “Senator Browne, Representative Schlossberg and I had some honest and difficult conversations with the school district's leadership about its fiscal struggles. By putting aside our partisan labels and developing a real trust with Superintendent Parker and President Thiel, we were able to do what was right for our community.
“More importantly, as a proud ASD parent, I have great confidence in knowing that my daughters will continue to have teachers in the classroom and the resources needed to ensure that the 2018-19 school year will be successful."
Last month, Allentown School District proposed a $303 million budget that included cost savings that reduced an original $28 million deficit to $9.5 million. This financial support from the state will cover the remaining hole and allow the school district to continue to operate at full staffing levels.
“Our sincere thanks to Senator Browne, Representative Schlossberg and Representative Schweyer for boldly leading efforts to support the future of children in the city of Allentown,” Parker said. “A quality education has the power to transform the lives of families for generations. Without this critical support, we would not be able to ensure quality outcomes for our children next year. This support ensures that we will continue to create opportunity and access to the American dream for a generation of children.”
While most Lehigh Valley schools average about $16,000 per student, the financially struggling school district in Allentown is spending, even with these increased funds, a little under $13,000 a student.
“Thanks to the work of Senator Browne and Representatives Schlossberg and Schweyer, we not only avoid potential teacher furloughs, but are able to continue with our Strategic Plan, increasing excellence in educating the whole student,” Thiel said. “Much thanks also goes to our ASD Board of Directors and Superintendent Parker, who, throughout this budget, boldly and respectfully put our students’ education first.”
The Lehigh County legislators, all of whom are leading efforts to promote equitable school funding, voted for the 2018-19 state budget which includes an additional $100 million in Basic Education Funding, a $25 million increase in Pre-K Counts and Head Start and $15 million increase in Special Education Funding.