Mar. 05, 2024

Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) Secretary Dr. Khalid Mumin, Deputy Secretary and Commissioner for Postsecondary and Higher Education Dr. Kate Shaw, Deputy Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Dr. Carrie Rowe, and Director of PDE Bureau of Budget and Fiscal Management Jessica Sites, testified today before the House Appropriations Committee.

House Republicans focused their questions on the Governor’s Basic Education Funding proposal, which is based off the Basic Education Funding Commission’s (BEFC) Democrat Majority report, as well as the Governor’s “Blueprint for Higher Education.” Additionally, Republican’s asked about school choice options for parents, career and technical education, and various other programs within the PDE. House Republicans again found agency leaders unable to answer the most basic questions regarding the most significant pieces of the Governor’s 2024-25 budget proposal.

Key Takeaways

Basic Education Funding Formula

· Governor Shapiro’s appointments to the BEFC signed off on a report that, at a minimum, commits to spending $7 billion over seven years. However, the Governor’s proposed budget only shows a $1 billion commitment in FY 2024-25 and nothing in subsequent years. Neither Sec. Mumin nor his staff was able to provide any explanation why.

· The BEFC report calls for more spending in education, yet it includes no accountability measures to ensure the funding is working. Neither Sec. Mumin nor his staff could provide any guidance or information on what accountability measures the Shapiro Administration would like to see included.

· Another component of the BEFC report requires certain local school districts to raise local funding by a collective $291 million. Again, when pressed on whether this considers school district performance, neither Sec. Mumin nor his staff was unable to provide clarification. However, the PDE did confirm that this requirement would result in school districts raising property taxes.

· In addition to calling for tax increases, the BEFC report also calls for the state to provide $872 million as an “adequacy investment.” Yet, there was no answer again from Sec. Mumin or his staff on whether this would reduce the ever-increasing property tax burden in the school districts receiving this investment.

· Sec. Mumin was completely absent from all BEFC hearings and was unable to provide a satisfactory reason why, clearly demonstrating his priorities.

“Blueprint for Higher Education”

· As the primary agency responsible for implementing the Governor’s so-called “Blueprint for Higher Education,” House Republicans hoped the PDE would have details on the plan. Unfortunately, this was not the case.

· The PDE confirmed there is no legislation prepared to implement the “blueprint.” When asked for a cost estimate, which would include setting tuition and fees at PASSHE schools and community colleges at $2,000 per year, they had no answer.

· Interestingly, while no details or estimates were provided, House Republicans did discover the PDE has spent at least $750,000 on consultants in the preparation of the “Blueprint for Higher Education.”

School Choice

· The Governor’s budget proposal calls for cutting reimbursements for cyber charter schools. Yet again, neither Sec. Mumin nor his staff could state why this action is necessary.

· While Governor Shapiro and Sec. Mumin have talked about supporting school choice in the past, the reality is it has come across as hollow words for children trapped in failing schools.

Notable Q&A

Rep. Torren Ecker asks what type of metrics will be used to ensure new Basic Education Spending is improving School Districts, Sec. Mumin was unable to provide an answer.

Rep. Natalie Mihalek exposes the bizarre inequities in the BEFC report with two similar school districts she represents.

Rep. Clint Owlett asks Sec. Mumin why he has failed to attend any BEFC meetings. 

Rep. Jim Struzzi asks for legislation on the Governor’s so-called 

Rep. Ann Flood questions the commitment of Governor Shapiro and the PDE on school choice. 

Rep. Lou Schmitt discovers the PDE has paid out at least $750,000 in a contract to create the “Blueprint for Higher Education,” and at least $100,000 was paid to Deputy Sec. Shaw’s former employer. 

Chairman Seth Grove confirmed the BEFC report calls for a local property tax increase for certain districts, discusses the future costs of Basic Education Funding, and the financial efficacy of combining PASSHE’s financial struggles with community colleges. 

Full Hearing

Watch the two parts of the hearing here: 
- Part 1.
- Part 2.

Rep. Seth Grove, Republican Chairman of the PA House Appropriations Committee
196th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives