The Pennsylvania School Boards Association’s Senior Director of Government Affairs John Callahan spoke at a news conference today in the State Capitol on Rep. Jesse Topper’s proposal to exempt school districts from prevailing wage requirements (HB 707). Callahan called prevailing wage a burdensome unfunded mandate that needlessly hurts local taxpayers and their schools.

Prevailing wage is a provision that requires political subdivisions (including school districts) to pay additional fees for construction and renovation projects which are not reflective of the actual wage rates in the local community. The private sector is not required to pay such fees. While school districts often are criticized for not operating like a business, prevailing wage is a prime example of how public schools are not allowed to under current law.

“Dollars spent on costly mandates, such as prevailing wage, are dollars that cannot be spent in the classroom,” Callahan said. “Compliance with this mandate forces school districts to spend precious taxpayer dollars on items that have little or no impact on the quality of education.”

Studies, such as the study by the Journal of Education Finance (2001) that examined the effect of Pennsylvania’s prevailing wage laws on the cost of school construction projects, found that schools pay more than 10% more in labor costs compared to private sector wages for all labor classifications.

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