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How Will Proposed House Debt Limit Bill Impact Pennsylvania Students?

The “In the States” feature by Kaitlyn Brennan is a weekly update to keep members informed on state-level activities impacting the education and educator preparation community.

For the first time in Pennsylvania’s history, the number of emergency teaching certifications issued across the state outpaced the number of newly fully certified teachers entering the field. The shift comes as the Commonwealth faces its most significant staffing challenges in well over a decade. During the 2021-22 school year, 6,366 people received emergency permits — compared to 4,220 students who received teaching certificates. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, more than 15,000 in-state certifications were issued during the 2010-11 school year. By 2021-22, that number dropped to more than 4,200 — a decrease of 10,800 certifications. As you may recall, those prepared through alternate pathways that require less coursework and student teaching experiences are 25% more likely to leave their teaching positions and the profession than those who are well prepared.

All of this comes as last month House Republicans passed a bill that ties the debt limit to appropriations by raising the debt ceiling by $1.5 trillion or through the end of next March, whichever happens first, in exchange for a wide range of proposals to decrease government funding. The cuts to federal funding would include capping federal funding at fiscal year (FY) 2022 levels — a nearly 22% cut to non-defense discretionary programs (i.e., education) — while also limiting spending growth to 1% every year over the next decade. Under the proposal, as many as 7.5 million children with disabilities would face reduced supports — a cut equivalent to removing more than 48,000 teachers and related services providers from the classroom.

In Pennsylvania alone, the House Republican bill to address the debt limit by tying it to appropriations would result in the following:

  • Cut Funding for Low-Income Students. The proposal would cut approximately $161 million in Title I funding for Pennsylvania schools serving low-income children, impacting an estimated 780,000 students and reducing program funding to its lowest level in almost a decade — a cut equivalent to removing nearly 2,500 teachers and specialized instructional support personnel from classrooms.

  • Cut Support for Students with Disabilities. Under the proposal, as many as 343,000 children in Pennsylvania with disabilities would face reduced supports — a cut in IDEA funding equivalent to removing approximately 1,800 teachers and related services providers from the classroom.

  • Slash Mental Health Support for Students. The House Republican proposal would limit educators’ abilities to address student mental health issues, including through violence, suicide, and drug abuse prevention, by cutting Title IV, Part A funding for Pennsylvania schools by about $9.3 million.

  • Eliminate Student Debt Relief. The proposal would cancel President Biden’s student debt relief plan, keeping much needed emergency student loan relief of up to $20,000 from 743,000 approved applicants across Pennsylvania recovering from the effects of the pandemic. It would also block the creation of new, more affordable student loan payment plans.

  • Make College More Expensive for 743,000 Pennsylvanians. The House Republicans’ proposal would not only likely eliminate Pell Grants altogether for 3,900 students in Pennsylvania, it would also reduce the maximum award by nearly $1,000 for the remaining 743,000 students who receive Pell Grants — making it harder for them to attend and afford college.

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