Aument Bill to Improve PA’s Economic Competitiveness Passes Senate Education Committee

HARRISBURG – Today, the Senate Education Committee passed a bill sponsored by Senator Ryan Aument (R-36) that would establish a commission to redesign the state’s education system to better prepare students for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

Pennsylvania’s economy is heavily dependent on sectors that are in danger of job losses due to automation, and those job losses are projected to accelerate in the wake of the pandemic. The latest forecast suggests that up to 85 million jobs will be lost globally to automation by 2025. These are primarily in sectors such as office support, factory and mechanic work, and manufacturing – exactly the sectors on which Pennsylvania is most reliant.

“Pennsylvania’s education system was designed for a bygone era and is no longer adequately preparing students well for today, let alone tomorrow,” said Aument. “This problem is not caused by our teachers, our students, or our parents, but rather it is the result of an outdated system. Fixing the problem will require restructuring this antiquated system with a more resilient, adaptable, and future-ready approach.”

In September of 2020, Senator Aument was invited to bipartisan group of legislators and legislative staff organized by the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) and the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) to study of the highest-performing countries, provinces, and states and the ways they organize their education systems for successful outcomes for all students. Over the last nine months, some common themes have been identified in these education systems, including the use of a long-term plan for their education systems that is closely aligned with the labor needs and opportunities of their workforce.  This forward-thinking approach has proven pivotal to the economic success of these countries.

“My goal is to position Pennsylvania to be economically competitive on a national and even global scale,” said Aument. “We want to stay ahead of the curve by ensuring that our education system is giving students the proper skills they need to succeed in the fastest growing job sectors in the next 10, 20, and even 30 years. This proposal will attract new industries, create family-sustaining jobs, and ensure that Pennsylvania is a place where our citizens want to live and new residents want to move.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry estimates that the fastest growing sectors in the Commonwealth in the next decade will include health care, education, computing, and finance. Aument’s bill seeks to ensure that Pennsylvanians are ready and able to fill these and other family-sustaining jobs critical to an economically competitive future by aligning the skills taught by our education system with the needs of these rising industries.

Similar to the process used in countries with high-performing education systems, Senate Resolution 144 would create a bicameral, 18-month-long 2030 Commission on Education and Economic Competitiveness. The 2030 Commission would be tasked with creating a long-term vision for Pennsylvania’s education system in 2030 and a legislative action plan for getting there. It will have the authority to study the challenges within the current system, learn from approaches to systematic redesign all over the world, and come up with innovative policy solutions that will enable educators and students to produce stronger education outcomes.

“Creating a world-class, intentionally redesigned education system will enable our students to go on to enjoy fulfilling work, stable incomes, and lifelong careers,” said Aument. “It would also decrease spending on prisons and health care, as well as reliance on social safety nets to support those trapped in intergenerational poverty.”

As the bill received unanimous committee support, it now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

CONTACT:  Stephanie Applegate, 717-787-4420