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Top Pa. Senate Democrat visits Allentown School District, calls for $3.1 billion in education funding

Chloe Nouvelle
A photo of the inside of an Allentown school classroom.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Sen. Nick Miller, D-Lehigh/Northampton, invited the state Senate’s top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee for a visit Tuesday of the Allentown School District’s oldest school buildings.

Appropriations Minority Chair Vincent Hughes toured Harrison Morton Middle School and Jefferson Elementary School. Harrison Morton is 150 years old while Jefferson was built in 1910, with an addition constructed in 1924. The school board approved a new East Side middle school to replace Harrison Morton, which is supposed to begin construction this year.

  • The ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee visited the Allentown School District
  • He is calling for $3.1 billion in education spending
  • State Sen. Nick Miller is advocating for more funding for Allentown School District

Miller said in an emailed statement that both schools, like many in the Allentown School District, are more than one hundred years old and lack air conditioning and other basic amenities students and teachers need to thrive.
“After the Commonwealth Court decision last month, we are faced with an incredible opportunity in PA right now,” Miller said in a statement. “We owe it to these students, educators and property taxpayers, who have shouldered the burden for far too long, to make a historic investment in education in this year’s budget.”

A recent Commonwealth court ruling that found that the state underfunds poorer districts and ordered the governor and state lawmakers to develop a solution.

Gov. Josh Shapiro has proposed about $1 billion in new education spending, which includes raising basic education funding by $567 million, a nearly 8% increase. He’s also advocated for boosting special education money by $100 million and has called for investing hundreds of millions in mental health and school safety.

Hughes said that’s a good foundation, but he believes the legislature can do more, especially in the wake of the court ruling. Students deserve 21st century schools, the Philly senator said.

“The Commonwealth court decision says we must do more,” Hughes said. “This may be the most important point, we certainly have more than enough available dollars to make the investment.”

Hughes has proposed spending $3.1 billion in education, with $750 million for basic education funding, $400 million for Level Up funding, $250 million for special education and $1 billion for toxic school remediation.

“You know, low-wealth districts are not just urban school districts. Rural schools all across Pennsylvania would benefit from this proposal.”
State Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery)

He said the state would have enough in surplus revenue and the Rainy Day Fund to invest that amount in education and still not need to raise state taxes or local property taxes. Hughes said he hopes he can get bipartisan support for the concept.

“The kinds of things we’re talking about, the kinds of things that the judge ruled on that had to be addressed help rural school districts, Republican school districts as much as they help Democrat school districts and urban school districts,” Hughes said. “You know, low-wealth districts are not just urban school districts. Rural schools all across Pennsylvania would benefit from this proposal.”