Developing a Sensible Approach to Funding Our Schools
The Good, the Bad, the Ugly, and the Disastrous: A Recap of the 2014-2015 state budget
While Governor Corbett and the General Assembly unfortunately chose to pass a no-new-revenue budget and slash funding from many programs, public pressure kept our schools from facing additional cuts. In fact, public schools received slight increase in state funding of $100 million through the Ready to Learn Block Grant, $20 million in the special education line item, and $10 million for school construction.
There was no increase in Basic Education funding in this budget. In addition, while Governor Corbett had proposed a $241 million for his Ready to Learn Block Grant program, leaders in the PA House and Senate crafted a budget that did not deliver on Corbett’s promise. The General Assembly reduced Corbett’s proposed grant amount to just $100 million. Many school districts that had counted on Governor Corbett’s proposed increases to balance their budget,are facing yet another year of tax increases, staff layoffs, and program cuts because the state funding they were counting on did not materialize.
Click here to see how the Ready to Learn Block Grant was divided up among PA’s school districts.
Pennsylvania remains 1 of only 3 states in America that does not have a funding formula that distributes state dollars in a fair, accurate, and transparent way. In addition, Pennsylvania ranks among the worst states for the share of state funding for public schools, providing a mere 34% of what it costs to educate our children.
Pennsylvania’s largest school district, Philadelphia, has been under state control since XXX and does not have the authority to raises local taxes to fund its own schools. Philadelphia’s City Council asked the PA legislature to allow the city to impose a $2.00 per pack tax on cigarettes sold in the city in order to raise an approximate $80 million per year to help fund the Philadelphia Public School District. The PA House and Senate went home before passing the legislation necessary for the city to impose this tax. The PA House will return on August 4th to take up the issue. Philadelphia schools loose an estimated $1.6 million each week that the tax is not being imposed. If this legislation does not pass, the school district will be forced to make another round of layoffs, cut more programs and services, and raise class sizes to unacceptable limits.
What Can We Do to Fix the Mess?
The fall will be a critical time for education advocates to take action. The PA legislature has formed a Basic Education Funding Commission, which is tasked with studying the way schools are funded in PA and making recommendations for a funding formula that will be fair, accurate, and transparent.
When legislators return to Harrisburg this fall, education advocates must have a laser focus and direct their energy toward encouraging ALL of our state legislators to support fair funding for ALL of Pennsylvania’s public schools. If legislators don’t hear from us, they won’t make it their priority to fix the education funding mess that has been so destructive to our public schools in recent years.