Why do we want to spend more on these programs? Because every child in Pennsylvania deserves an equal start in life, and I intend to see that promise kept.

As we lay this foundation, we must also continue to expand funding for K-through-12 education. This budget adds nearly $100 million to be distributed to our school districts. That is over and above last year’s record funding levels.

We intend to maintain full funding levels for state and state-related universities. That is $1.58 billion that will go towards these institutions. At the same time, the leaders of these universities have promised to work to keep tuition increases as low as possible for students.

Our commitment allows schools to plan their budgets for the coming year and make the best use of their resources. Their commitment should allow students and their families to plan their own budgets.

Some of these university presidents are here with us today. Please join me in offering our thanks for their commitment to hold down costs while lifting up the cause of available higher education.

?Our message to college students today is that both my administration and the leaders of your state and state-related schools are committed to making the dream of higher education attainable.

Finally, I recently unveiled the "Passport for Learning" Block Grant, an unprecedented $1 billion dollar program enriching our public schools over the next four years.

It provides maximum flexibility for school districts in four general areas.

One is called “Ready by 3.” The funds can go toward supporting and enhancing a quality kindergarten program that meets our academic standards and enhances elementary reading and mathematics through third grade.

The second program acknowledges that every child learns differently at his or her own pace. When it comes to education one size does not fit all. Schools can establish customized learning plans that allow our students to learn at the pace and manner that best suits them.

Science, technology, engineering and math remain critical to the continued advancement of our students, our state and our nation. That is why they comprise the third area to receive a share of this new revenue. The grant will provide funding to invest in programs and equipment that support science and math in grades six through twelve.

There is a fourth component to this block grant. It is one that earlier generations did not anticipate and which our generation dare not disregard.

Children cannot learn if they do not feel safe. Pennsylvania schools continue to make great strides in safety. This grant ensures that local schools can invest in the necessary safety and security measures to make certain that when our children sit down at their desks the only thing they need to think about is how bright their futures will be.

Senator Scarnati has already made this issue a top priority, and I look forward to working with him to help make our schools safer.

Privatization

I can think of no better use for the proceeds created by getting us out of a business we should never have been in than to put those dollars toward the essential responsibilities of state government.

That is why I have proposed that, as we phase the commonwealth out of the liquor business, we put that money toward education.

Selling liquor is not a core function of government. Education is.

We need to put our liquor system into private hands.

Pennsylvanians have waited too long for the day they could buy beer or wine at the grocery store or choose from a greater variety of offerings at privately owned liquor stores.

This is our opportunity and our children’s.

We have another opportunity to make things right for the future.

Pension Reform

The entire system of state pensions has become a mountain of debt, and the avalanche could bury our economic growth, swallow up benefits for our elderly, education for our children, and transportation for our economy.

We cannot let that happen. We cannot allow hard-working teachers and state employees to be threatened by the loss of their pensions. Nor can we allow the burden of saving those pensions to snowball into a nightmare of economic hardship for our children.