Keeping the commitment to our children and their education

Pat Browne has always made our children’s education a top priority. He’s been a strong supporter of early childhood education initiatives having written the law that allowed for the development of the “Edward Donley Children’s Campus” in Allentown

issues-educationPat served on the House Education Committee and continues to serve on the Senate Education Committee, including serving for a time as Vice Chair of the committee, and has distinguished himself as a leader among his colleagues when it comes to education initiatives and ensuring that our children are provided a quality education.

Specifically, Pat has focused on ensuring that Pennsylvania provides adequate and fair funding for students and school districts. It was this focus that led to Pat authoring the Pennsylvania “costing-out” study, which was the foundation of the first comprehensive formula used by the state to fund education based on the actual cost to educate a student. He also authored two bills that created two commissions to develop new ways for distributing education funding. Each commission developed and recommended groundbreaking legislation that changed the way the state’s education dollars are allocated to ensure a more equitable distribution of funding.

  • Pat authored a measure that created the “Special Education Funding Commission” to address the fact that the current formula did not effectively match the needs of Pennsylvania students with the cost of providing those services. The 15-member panel was charged with developing methodologies for a new formula to allocate any new state special education funding – beyond 2010-11 levels – in a manner that recognizes the actual number of physically- and mentally-challenged students in a school and the various levels of their need for services.

Pat served as Co-Chair of the Commission whose recommendations were approved unanimously by the General Assembly and signed into law by the Governor. The new formula includes factors reflecting students’ needs based on three cost categories – low (category 1), moderate (category 2) and high (category 3). The formula also includes factors reflecting community differences such as market value of real estate, personal income, property tax rates, district population and district geographic size.

  • Pat authored legislation that created the Basic Education Funding Commission, which was charged with developing a new formula for distributing state funding for basic education. The 15-member group held 15 hearings over 11 months and heard from more than 110 individuals including superintendents, school board presidents, business leaders, nonprofit organizations and parents before making their recommendations.

As was the case with the Special Education Funding Commission, Pat co-chaired this commission and again was successful in the development and unanimous approval of a new formula. The Commission determined that allocation of basic education funding needs to provide for accountability, transparency and predictability. The main objective of the new funding formula is to fairly distribute state resources according to various student and school district factors. The new formula takes into account the specific needs of students: relative wealth, local tax effort, geographic price differences, student enrollment levels and the ability of local districts to fund their schools.

Pat’s work as a champion of quality education initiatives, however, started before the creation of the commissions and development of three new funding formulas.

  • Pat served as a member of the Pennsylvania Legislative Commission on Urban Schools, whose recommendations led to the creation of the “Education Empowerment Act,” which increases school district accountability in meeting student performance standards and led to historic improvement of education quality in the Allentown School District.
  • Pat also authored a statewide study to determine the basic cost per pupil to provide an education that will permit a student to meet the State’s academic standards and assessments. The results of the study were used to develop the first major reform in Pennsylvania’s education funding formula in over 30 years.
  • Besides authoring studies and developing new formulas for adequate and fair education funding, Pat has been a fierce supporter of increased funding for education, specifically in challenged districts like the Allentown School District.
  • Pat was instrumental in securing increases in Basic Education Funding ($200 million), Pre-K programs ($25 million), Head Start ($5 million), early intervention programs ($10.4 million) and Special Education Funding ($20 million) in this year’s (2016-17) state budget.
  • Without Pat’s advocacy and ability to deliver results, Allentown School District and other Lehigh Valley Schools would not have received the record level of school funding they they have received through the state budget process. He has successfully secured historic increases in funding for basic and special education services for Lehigh Valley school districts. During his service in state government, Pat’s advocacy has increased Allentown’s share of state funding from 34% of total funding available to the school district to nearly 60% of total funding.
  • Pat recognized that Allentown School District was being underfunded and that school districts like Allentown, which face significant challenges – poverty, truancy, high number of English as a second language students – are in need of higher education funding increases than an average school district just to afford students the opportunity to succeed. That is why he sought and was able to secure for Allentown the largest increases in funding of any school district in the state.
  • From the 2002-03 school year to the 2016-17 school year, Pat was able to secure an additional $72 million increase in funding – or a 204% increase – as compared to the average school district funding increase of 70%. During that period, the Philadelphia School District, with its 32 members of the General Assembly, received a 72% increase in funding .

Since being elected to the legislature, Pat has had a prime focus in providing support and developing programs and services to promote the health and educational development of Pennsylvania’s most at-risk children starting at a young age. These programs include: Pre-K Counts, Head Start and Keystone Stars.

  • While few were talking about this need for early education initiatives and intervention, Pat was working with then-Governor Tom Ridge to develop these programs and to secure  resources to make them work. Two decades later, he still continues to fight for early childhood education programming and has successfully lead the state budget and legislative process to ensure these programs thrive through increased funding and technical support.
  • Since the start of his state service, when Pat was one of the lone voices advocating for this funding, early childhood education programming is now, not only receiving overwhelming bi-partisan support in the General Assembly, but also support from a broad and diverse group of community leaders including providers, law enforcement, business, military and athletics. With this follow foundation, Pat co-founded and co-chairs the bicameral, bipartisan Early Childhood Education Caucus, which now has more than 125 legislative members and is the largest caucus in Harrisburg. Its charge is simple, but imperative: to aggressively advocate for high-quality early childhood care and education programs in Pennsylvania.
  • In his role as Co-Chair of the Early Childhood Education Caucus, Pat has helped secure the largest new investment in Early Childhood Education funding in the Commonwealth in Pennsylvania history.
  • In the last two budget cycles, Early Childhood Education programs have seen increases in their funding levels higher than any other program area in the state budget. In the 2014-15 state budget, Pat and the Early Childhood Education Caucus were successful in securing an additional $10 million for Pre-K Counts and Head Start and another $30 million for early childhood education programs in the 2016-17 state budget.
  • Thanks in large part to Pat’s leadership and dedication, this year more than $244 million is being invested in Early Childhood Education programs and services (Pre-K Counts, Head Start and the Stars Programs) providing access for more than 48,000 students to participate in the program.

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