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Q&A with Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro

By Ben Shapiro, Editor-in-Chief

The Spoke interviewed Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro on Jan. 17, the one-year anniversary of his gubernatorial inauguration. His 2023-24 budget provided the largest single-year increase in basic education funding in the state’s history.

This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Q: I know this has been a record-breaking year in terms of education bills and spending. Has education been one of your top priorities as governor?

A: I think education is so important because it’s at the foundation of everything. If we get our education system right, then it’s much easier to create economic opportunity; if we’ve got our education system right, it has a positive impact on public safety. For me, investing in education has always been quite central to the work that we do. I’m really proud that in my first year as governor, we invested the largest amount in public education in the history of Pennsylvania.

Q: Last year, the Commonwealth Court ruled that Pennsylvania’s public school funding formula was unconstitutional, citing the inequality in money distribution among school districts as a driving force in the decision. How have the education spending bills that you passed as governor worked to answer some of the court’s questions and meet its goals?

A: We are working on two things in Harrisburg. Number one: a new formula, so that when we spend $1 on our schools, that dollar gets sent out in a more equitable and fair way to the districts that need it most. Number two: increasing the amount of dollars. The good news is that we’ve already begun the process of increasing the investment. We were able to secure a budget where we invested more in public education than at any time in the history of Pennsylvania. We’ll invest more, and we’ll make sure that the dollars are driven out correctly.

Q: There have been a lot of positive responses from students regarding your universal free breakfast program, but what have been the reactions from other people, like the teachers?

A: I have heard from a lot of teachers who have said to me that prior to a universal free breakfast, they had kids coming to school hungry, and it was harder for them to learn. Now, students are coming, they have their bellies full, they’re ready to learn and they’re able to be more effective students. Teachers have seemed to notice that more than I expected. The teachers are really in touch with how their students are feeling — and they’re happy.

Q: Within the past month, you signed a bill that would require all public school students in Pennsylvania to take a financial literacy class before graduating high school, among other things. What have been your goals when it comes to changing and updating state curricula?

A: Financial literacy is just one important thing: I think folks need to learn how to consume information and media much more effectively. I’m not trying to tell students that you shouldn’t believe the position of the left or the right, but when you see a headline or you see a story, you need to be able to determine the difference between fact and fiction. I think we need to do a better job of teaching our history, whether it’s the history of 9/11 or the Holocaust, you name it. I think financial literacy is one example of the kind of thing that we need to be teaching young people in our schools and preparing them more effectively for the future.

Ben Shapiro can be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Ben Shapiro
Ben Shapiro, Editor-in-Chief
Ben Shapiro is a senior and the Editor-in-Chief of The Spoke. He has previously served as the Copy Editor and News Editor. He covers local government, including the school board, with a focus on education. Outside of the newsroom, he lobbies for the New Voices Movement, which aims to secure First Amendment rights for student journalists in Pennsylvania, and leads Conestoga’s Speech and Debate and Mock Trial clubs.