Capitol Beat

Khalid Mumin talks education funding, PASS scholarships at press club speech

Pennsylvania’s secretary of education was a featured speaker at Monday’s Pennsylvania Press Club lunch.

Pennsylvania Department of Education Secretary Khalid Mumin speaks at an April 18 press conference with Gov. Josh Shapiro.

Pennsylvania Department of Education Secretary Khalid Mumin speaks at an April 18 press conference with Gov. Josh Shapiro. Commonwealth Media Services

Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Khalid Mumin talked about all things education during an appearance at the Pennsylvania Press Club’s monthly speaker series on Monday, highlighting education line items in Gov. Josh Shapiro’s 2024-25 budget, existing efforts the state is taking to retain teachers – and whether a controversial scholarship program will be part of state budget negotiations. 

Mumin also discussed the work of the Pennsylvania Department of Education under the Shapiro administration, the challenges facing higher education institutions in the state and how to ensure both schools and students are adapting to evolving career paths. 

Below are some of the highlights from Mumin’s press club speech. 

Education investments Shapiro’s 2024-25 budget

Mumin kicked off Monday’s speech by walking through the investments the Shapiro administration has made in education to date, and stressed the administration’s desire to secure a $1.1 billion increase in basic education funding this year. 

In his most recent budget proposal, the governor proposed a $1.072 billion increase in basic education funding, including a $200 million investment in the state’s Basic Education Funding formula and an $872 million adequacy investment to help school districts hit adequacy targets, both of which align with recommendations made by the state’s Basic Education Funding Commission to address a state court decision that rendered the state’s public school funding system unconstitutional. 

“We have 500 school districts in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania – 367 of them have an adequacy gap,” Mumin said. “That’s why the need for this investment is so important to address volatility.”

Teacher retention

Pennsylvania recently began accepting applications for a new student-teacher stipend program created through last year’s state budget – a program that has already seen interest far exceed the program’s capacity, according to reporting from the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. 

Mumin said Monday that the workforce needs in education have changed since he first started teaching. “We need teachers – that didn’t exist when I was around. We had so many teachers and certifications granted by the state. Now, we have a true shortage,” Mumin said.

He added that the Department of Education has a dedicated person working on closing the state’s teacher shortage. “In my office and my agency, by statute, I have a chief talent officer who’s engaging in this work for us to try to close the gap,” he added. “We don’t want to talk about this as a national gap or national phenomenon that’s out here; I’m concerned about the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.” 

The future of PASS scholarships

Mumin also weighed in on a hotly-debated policy proposal that led to a budget stalemate in 2023. After $100 million in funding for private school tuition vouchers led to a temporary budget stalemate last year, Mumin said that Shapiro “has been very clear that he supports a PASS scholarship program, but not at the detriment of traditional public schools.”

Shapiro supported the vouchers, also referred to as Pennsylvania Award for Student Success, or PASS scholarships, during budget negotiations last year, but ultimately vetoed the funding to secure the support of the Democratic-led state House. The scholarships would go to students in low-performing public schools, allowing them to use the funds to attend a nonpublic, private school.

Mumin suggested Monday that PASS scholarships are still on the table for this year’s budget.

“My understanding is that those conversations are still happening. The door is not closed on it,” he said. “So those negotiations and conversations are happening at the governor’s office-level with our legislators.”