(WTAJ) — Pennsylvania public school districts are getting a big boost from the state’s most recent budget bill passed last Friday.
School funding in total will increase by over a half-billion dollars, and the 100 most underfunded districts will share an additional pot of $225 million extra.
Moshannon Valley School District in Clearfield County is one of those 100, and Superintendent Dr. John Zesiger said he’s never seen an increase like his district is receiving during his tenure.
“It’s a historic increase,” Zesiger said. “I think the most important thing is that we don’t want to lose sight that the real winners are the students in the Commonwealth of PA. So for that, the legislature, the governor, they should be commended.”
Zesiger said the funding will go towards instructional materials, summer programs, extracurriculars, technology improvements, mental health support and more.
But the superintendent said his district still needs help in two distinct areas — staffing and special education.
Zesiger said his district has about sixteen vacancies in its staff. He said he’s never experienced such a significant increase in funds at the same time as having a significant labor shortage.
And he said almost 26% of his students are in the special education program as opposed to the state average of 16%.
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“That increased number of students requires an increased number of supports,” Zesiger said. “[And] those costs continue to go up and up and up. … So the additional special education funding will go a long way to providing for that student population.”
Bellwood-Antis School District in Blair County also said it needs additional help. Business Manager Greg Gates said the district is about 52% underfunded in special education.
“Hopefully next year, we’ll see a little bit more [money] coming through,” Gates said. “[But] it’s nice to see though. I think it’s a step in the right direction.”