State lawmakers tout budget funding for school facilities

PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 20 – Today, House Appropriations Committee Majority Chairman Jordan Harris, D-Phila., hosted a news conference at South Philadelphia High School discussing school facilities funding in the 2023-24 state budget.

The budget includes $175 million for school facility improvements.

Pennsylvania has some of the oldest schools in the country. The average school building is around 70 years old and was built when lead pipes and asbestos were standard building materials.

Discoveries of asbestos and other toxins have led to school closures across the Commonwealth, including seven Philadelphia schools in 2023 alone. In the same year, 100 schools statewide closed due to excessive heat.

Harris stated that he believes this funding will help to address this issue that’s plagued Pennsylvania schools for a long time.

“This funding is paramount to improving the health and safety of our educators, students and school staff, Harris said. “This major Democratic priority is a significant investment and critical step toward ensuring that receiving an education in Pennsylvania does not equate to sick or injured students, teachers, or staff. There is more work to do, and we intend to continue our work until every Pennsylvania school is a safe learning environment for our children.”

Harris was joined by members of the Philadelphia House Delegation, including state Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler, D-Phila., and members of the House Appropriations and Education committees, including Education Committee Majority Chairman Peter Schweyer, D-Lehigh. 

Schweyer said this funding will allow schools to properly address issues with their facilities.

“For the first time in nearly a decade, the General Assembly has recognized the need for funding which allows school districts to address facility repairs and upgrades,” said Schweyer. “As a father of two in the Allentown School District, I have seen firsthand the need for funding so schools can provide the safe and comfortable learning environments that parents expect, and children deserve.”

Fiedler, whose legislative district includes South Philadelphia High School, has been a long-time advocate for school facilities funding.

“Delivering $175 million in school facilities funding is a win for students and teachers who deserve safe learning environments,” Fiedler said. “But we're going to need a lot more to repair and upgrade our chronically underfunded school buildings. I’m hopeful that this moment will kick off a wave of investment in public schools, so we can finally address our unconstitutional funding crisis.” 

House Speaker Joanna McClinton, D-Phila./Delaware, stated that this funding will help schools across the Commonwealth.

“From fixing leaky roofs, to replacing lead pipes, to updating HVAC systems, we need to make sure our classrooms are safe so our kids can focus on learning,” McClinton said. “The funding House Democrats secured for school repairs will help schools here in Philly, and in Reading and Allentown, Pittsburgh, Erie and Scranton make their learning environments safer for students and staff.”