Gov. Wolf shares how $100M Level Up funding will impact York City schools

Erin Bamer
York Dispatch

With $3.3 million going to the York City School District as part of a recently approved increase in Level Up funding, Gov. Tom Wolf and other officials on Wednesday shared how they expect the additional money will impact local schools. 

Wolf held a news conference to discuss the funding at Edgar Fahs Smith STEAM Academy in York City. In the recently signed state budget, Wolf approved a $100 million increase in Level Up funding to be distributed to the 100 most underfunded school districts in the state. 

York City School District Chief Recovery Officer Michael Thew, right, watches as Gov. Tom Wolf hugs York City School District School Board Director Margie Orr before Wolf's press event at Edgar Fahs Smith STEAM Academy in York City Wednesday, July 7, 2021. Wolf spoke there about the Level Up Initiative which he says would help to close funding gaps among state public schools. Bill Kalina photo

"We've made our schools and teachers a priority," he said. 

York City will receive $3.3 million of that funding, the fourth-highest allocation in the state behind the Philadelphia City School District, Reading School District and Allentown City School District. The district also received a $2.7 million increase in Basic Education Funding, meaning that overall York City received a $6 million funding bump in the budget — an 8.7% increase from last year. 

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The York City School District has been historically underfunded and is currently working through a state-mandated financial recovery that began in 2012. State Rep. Carol Hill-Evans, D-York City, said the three school districts in her region, which includes York City, York Suburban and West York Area, are overall underfunded by more than $71 million. 

West York received an extra $543,000 in Basic Education Funding in the budget, an 8% increase from last year. York Suburban received a $578,000 increase in Basic Education Funding, a 20.3% increase from last year. No school districts in York County aside from York City received any Level Up funding. 

York City Superintendent Andrea Berry said the Level Up funding is a significant step to closing the funding gap for impoverished school districts in the state. Berry said she intends to propose that the district use the funding to upgrade technology. 

Gov. Tom Wolf listens as York City School District School Superintendent Andrea Berry speaks during a press event at Edgar Fahs Smith STEAM Academy in York City Wednesday, July 7, 2021. Wolf spoke there about the Level Up Initiative which he says would help to close funding gaps among state public schools. Bill Kalina photo

"So teachers can teach, and students can learn," she said. 

York City students spent the majority of the previous school year in exclusively remote learning through the COVID-19 pandemic, and the district relies on technology to run its cyber school, Bearcat Cyber Academy. Berry said the school board has not yet discussed how to use the funding. 

Berry said the funding will also help the district "enormously" in its financial recovery. She said the district made massive cuts to its intervention and early childhood programs as part of the recovery, and the Level Up funding will help bring those programs back. She said the funding can also help the district increase staffing to manage classroom sizes. 

Gov. Tom Wolf speaks about the Level Up Initiative during a visit to Edgar Fahs Smith STEAM Academy in York City Wednesday, July 7, 2021. He contends the measure would help to close funding gaps among state public schools. Bill Kalina photo

Wolf said that although the state budget includes the largest increase to education funding in Pennsylvania's history, it was just the first step to improving the quality of the state's public education. Wolf intends to change the state's funding structure for education to ensure all funding for school districts goes through the fair funding formula. 

Wolf said he requested that change in this year's budget and was disappointed that the Legislature did not approve it. He said he will request it again in next year's budget.