Governor Tom Wolf has asked various groups to start planning on increases in state funding for education, and the move is prompting criticism from Republican state lawmakers who oppose the governor’s spending plan.
This week, the administration encouraged pre-school programs to start applying for state grants, noting that under Wolf’s budget proposal, early education grants would receive an additional $120 million.
The announcement was greeted by some raised eyebrows among Senate Republicans. Spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher said the governor shouldn’t be giving people reason to bank on additional funding before it’s been approved by the Legislature.
“It’s a blatantly political move,” said Kocher. “Then, in the future, they can come back and say we ‘cut’ education spending.”
The administration says this is about planning, not politics. A press release from the governor’s office notes that pre-kindergarten providers have to be able to enroll children for the school year beginning in September.
“What we’re doing is trying to allow people time to prepare,” said spokesman Jeff Sheridan. “We don’t want people to have to be at the mercy of Harrisburg politics and then end up having to plan, last-second.”
Kocher said the move is similar to past actions — like the administration’s request that school districts submit their plans for spending any additional state dollars, and the deal struck with state-owned universities freeze tuition if proposed funding increases come through.
Republicans in the House and Senate have said they can’t support the governor’s budget proposal, which includes greater education funding as well as expanded economic development programs and support for additional state troopers. The proposal contains business tax cuts long sought by Republicans, a tax on natural gas drillers long fought by the industry, and a property tax relief package that would require an increase in the state’s sales and personal income taxes.