Mar. 01, 2021

HARRISBURG – Today the House Appropriations Committee heard from the Department of Education (PDE) and the Pennsylvania Commission on Community Colleges. Here are the key takeaways from the day:

Children need to be back in the classroom:
• Acting Education Secretary Noe Ortega testified that about half of public school children are receiving full-time, in-person instruction while the rest are receiving either hybrid learning or remote learning. Last week, the House Education Committee heard testimony from nonpublic schools that about 90% of nonpublic school students had the option for at least some in-person instruction from their schools.
• House Republicans pressured Ortega to provide a plan for vaccinating teachers, implementing clear guidelines and returning our children to the classroom.
• When asked by Rep. Ryan Warner (R-Fayette) whether 2.5 hours of synchronous online learning a day, as many students across the Commonwealth are currently receiving, is sufficient for students, Ortega replied, “no.”

House Republicans led the effort to provide stability for school districts last year:
• Despite significant uncertainties, House Republicans led the effort in May 2020 to enact a budget that fully funded education for the year, while funding the rest of state government for five months. This provided much-needed stability to school districts.

School districts have received billions in one-time federal aid:
• The federal government has provided nearly $2.5 billion in emergency relief funding directly to school districts over the past year. That is the equivalent of 40% of the annual Basic Education Funding districts receive.
• The General Assembly fully funded Pennsylvania school districts with their state subsidies, and they received the $2.5 additional federal dollars. Ortega was unable to fully explain why schools needed the increase requested by the governor.
• When asked how much it actually costs to educate a child in Pennsylvania, once again, Ortega had no response. Here is the exchange with Rep. Jesse Topper (R-Bradford).

Community colleges to use federal relief funds to help Pennsylvanians regain employment:
• Through Act 1 of 2021, House Republicans prioritized $14 million in federal COVID relief funds for community colleges. Elizabeth Bolden, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges, testified that their schools are prepared to use those funds to help Pennsylvanians who have lost employment during the pandemic regain work through enhanced education and training.

Pennsylvania House of Representatives
House Republican Caucus

Media Contact: Neal Lesher
Office: 717-260-6495
Cell: 717-507-9240