State Senators learn what programs Pittsburgh Public Schools stands to lose without adequate funding

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Career and Technical Education, or CTE program, offers kids 16 vocational programs across six of its high schools.

“It’s a lot of hand-work and problem-solving, math included. I learned stuff that you are going to use in the workforce,” said student Alonzo Allen.

Alonzo is a senior who has taken carpentry classes for the past three years. But now, educators fear if statewide funding concerns are not fixed, programs like this could be cut.

“If we maintain [the] status quo with our budget, we are not going to be able to keep our students up to speed and be prepared for industry,” said Angela Mike, the Executive Director for Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Career and Technical Education CTE.

Earlier this year, after a group of parents and educators sued the state over funding, a judge declared Pennsylvania has been unconstitutionally underfunding districts for decades. The plaintiffs originally sued in 2014, arguing that Pennsylvania’s system of paying for public schools is failing the poorest districts and contending that billions more dollars in state aid are necessary to meet the state’s constitutional obligation.

“They are starting from so far behind and they have to overcome so much to get what their other peers already have,” said Senator Lindsey Williams, District 38.

Now Williams, along with other lawmakers on the Basic Education Funding Commission, will try to right that wrong. They’ll travel from district to district to find out what each stands to lose: like school nurses, librarians, special education, early education, CTE programs, students with disabilities funding, and so much more.

“This is the first time we are having an in-depth conversation about what it means to adequately fund our public schools,” Williams said.

For students like Alonzo, additional funding means he’ll graduate with all the certifications needed for a successful career in carpentry.

“If I went to another school that didn’t have this [CTE], I don’t think I would be here,” Alonzo said.

The commission’s next hearing is Thursday in Lemont Furnace.

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