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A True Look at Basic Education Funding In Pennsylvania
While the Corbett Administration touts its public education investments, saying that it has provided more basic education funding than any other governor, the numbers reveal an entirely different story.
Deep budget cuts of nearly $900 million in the 2011-12 budget year, created a seriously underfunded public education system in Pennsylvania. The consequences for our state are severe and threaten our ability to compete in the global economy.
During the prior decade, Pennsylvania was an educational leader among states, significantly increasing financial support and demonstrating consistently improving results in the classroom. Now, test scores have begun to decline, following two years of deep cuts. The governor's proposed budget for key classroom funding programs is more than $250 million below actual state funding levels from five years ago.
Diminishing Help for Low Income School Districts
School districts throughout all corners of the state have been pushed to the edge of fiscal insolvency. The Governor must be directly challenged on this failed budget policy that is literally bankrupting our public education system and dooming it to failure.
The subsidy increase of $90 million proposed in the Governor’s budget, while no doubt appreciated by school districts, cannot replace the damage done by the first two Corbett budgets.
Even more troubling is the fact that this aid is distributed through a formula that gives significantly larger percentage increases to wealthy school districts, shortchanging the state's struggling communities.
This is due to a distribution that does not take into consideration factors such as the number of English Language Learners (ELL) students or poverty factors such as free and reduced lunch populations.
When the Corbett Administration cut basic education funding in his first year, the per student cuts were larger for poorer school districts than for wealthier school districts. The Duquesne School District, Reading, York and Chester Upland all received per pupil cuts of over $1,000 per student. However, wealthier school districts in the same counties such as Upper Saint Claire, Wyomissing, York Suburban and Springfield, all received per pupil cuts of less than $100 per student.
The Philadelphia School District has lost $300 million due to the governor’s budget cuts, yet the School Reform Commission is only requesting $15 million in this year’s budget. It is the same $15 million that Gov. Corbett proposed in his budget plan.
|CLASSROOM PERFORMANCE - PSSA RESULTS
After leading the nation for nearly a decade in education progress, with test scores that rose consistently at every grade level every year, that progress ended and test scores declined in 2012. Corbett’s deep basic education funding cuts during the past 2 fiscal years have had an undeniable negative impact on classroom performance. As the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators/Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASA/PASBO) survey reported, more than 75% of school districts have had to eliminate offerings, cutting an estimated 18,000 education related jobs and reduced critical support for early learning, tutoring assistance, after school and summer programs.
These cuts have also forced many school districts to implement fee programs for after-school, sports, and extra-curricular programs. Meaning, if you want to play on the football team or join the science team, you have to pay a fee. This is an unfair burden, on hard working families.
According to the same survey, two thirds of school districts surveyed have raised local property taxes.
Money matters, and investments in proven education concepts that work, must be the foundation of our education policy. Gov. Corbett cannot continue to tout education investment, while cheating our children out of the high quality academic experience that they deserve. We must make real, targeted investments in the future academic success of our students.
You can find out more specifics about the 2013-14 State Budget and provide your feedback on my website at senatorhughes.com as well as on Facebook and Twitter (@SenatorHughes).
Offices of State
Senator Vincent Hughes