Pennsylvania’s prosperity depends upon a well-educated workforce. The PA Chamber supports an education system that establishes clear accountability and provides every child with the opportunity to receive a quality education that will adequately prepare them for gainful employment or further education. This includes initiatives that provide families with options to best fit the specific education needs of students. We also promote workforce development programs that aim to close the jobs skills gap.
Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry President and CEO Gene Barr issued the following statement regarding the Senate’s recent bipartisan vote to include an important teacher seniority reform in H.B. 178 – the omnibus Education Code bill.
Participating in Pennsylvania’s 21st century economy increasingly requires specific skills, training and, at a minimum, fundamental education, which is most commonly attained through the public school system. Unfortunately, a growing sentiment throughout the employer community is indicative of the education and workforce challenges facing the Commonwealth.
For example, in April 2016, the PA Chamber conducted a survey of 428 Pennsylvania employers in which over half (52 percent) of respondents reported that recruiting qualified candidates was either very or extremely difficult. More disconcerting was that an even greater majority (57 percent) believe the problem will become even more daunting in the years ahead. Confronting this challenge demands participation of and enhanced coordination among stakeholders, including public schools, which must continue to review and improve the manner in which students are educated and prepared for the workforce, higher education or whatever path they choose.
Education funding is an important part of the discussion but not a panacea, as evidenced by Pennsylvania K-12 education spending historically ranking among the highest in the nation. According to 2016 U.S. Census data, Pennsylvania has the 12th highest per-pupil expenditure in the country and state-level per-pupil funding above the national average. Moreover, according to the National Education Association, Pennsylvania has the 10th highest average salary for public school teachers. These figures represent a strong investment in public education; yet students too often find they are not academically prepared for a career or further education. For example, a 2016 report from the national organization Education Reform Now concluded that approximately one in four new college students had to enroll in remedial coursework during their first year of college. Additionally, as the PA Chamber’s 2016 survey helped demonstrate, employers continue to report challenges finding qualified applicants.
As employers and taxpayers, the PA Chamber members know these trends must change to help foster a vibrant economy and success for Pennsylvania’s children. Therefore, the Chamber supports systematic improvements to Pennsylvania's public education system that will increase the quality of education and overall student achievement.
The PA Chamber supports: