Public Education


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:

  • Competitive educational systems and programs, such as charter schools, magnet schools and the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program, that provides options for parents and students;
  • Holding superintendents, principals and teachers accountable for student performance while recognizing variables that impact those outcomes;
  • Increasing local administrator authority and flexibility over management and personnel decisions;
  • Recognizing and rewarding teachers whose performance contributes to substantial growth in student achievement providing for fair and efficient reassignment or removal of ineffective educators;
  • Fair and purposeful distribution of state education funding and effective utilization so that existing dollars are used first and foremost to increase student achievement and realize a higher return on taxpayer investment;
  • Policies that promote greater efficiency and opportunities for economies of scale among schools and school districts and elimination of unnecessary government mandates that divert resources from the mission of education;
  • Alignment of education standards with college and workplace expectations and efforts to help ensure student proficiency;
  • Programs and curriculum that emphasize STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and technical skills, communication and a full range of business skills, trades and vocational education;
  • Efforts to eliminate the perceived bias against vocational and skilled trade-focused education and encourage students and incumbent workers to seek educational opportunities and training that will help meet the demands of an ever-evolving economy;
  • Encouraging institutions of higher education as well as the private sector to form community-based relationships and programs with school districts to enhance public education in the Commonwealth and help facilitate student readiness for a career or further education;
  • Concerted efforts by institutions of higher education to develop and implement innovative delivery approaches aimed at improving skill set development, lowering higher education costs, and providing more cost-effective higher education opportunities for traditional and non-traditional student populations.