Proposed state budget shortchanges public schools
Partners Post, February 2014
Do you know how much the state budget directly impacts your local schools?
The state funds a significant portion of districts' budgets. That means cuts to state funds result in cuts to programs or increases to local taxes.
We all have seen the impact of the nearly $1 billion in state funding cuts since 2011, and so we know it is important to pay attention and speak up before the next budget is passed.
On Feb. 4, Gov. Tom Corbett started this year's process by introducing his proposed 2014-2015 state budget.
Unfortunately, he did not propose restoration of the funds districts lost since 2011. While he asked the General Assembly to consider new money for public schools, education advocates are concerned that the funds have restrictive strings attached.
Instead of providing funds that districts could use to restore programs and invest in their most urgent classroom needs, the governor proposed new, one-time block grant funding that districts can only use on a short list of state initiatives. While the application process for these grants is not clear, it is apparent that communities would have little say in how districts spend the new money. School districts would not be permitted to use block grants to restore art, music, foreign language, physical education, or other programs that have been cut or eliminated over the past three years. They would also be limited in their ability to bring back furloughed educators to reduce class sizes.
What does this mean for your school district?
Go to the School Funding Calculator on the Partners website to find a breakdown of state budget funding for your school district since 2010-2011. You can also compare your school district's funding with others in your county.
Use the Partners for Public Education Advocacy Center to email your state legislators, encouraging them to support a real school funding increase that lets districts decide how best to meet the needs of their students.
Share the information on the state budget calculator with friends and family. Show them what's happening in your school district, and encourage them to become Partners to help speak out.
Schools can't restore key programs for students with the proposed funding
Last fall, we sent all Partners information about the state's new School Performance Profiles, giving each school a score based on a variety of factors. The PA Department of Education (PDE) plans to use this data to create a District Performance Profile for every school district.
The governor has proposed using district scores to determine each district's options for using the new proposed block grant funding. Lowest scoring school districts would have the fewest options for using the new funding.
Educators and education advocacy groups have strong concerns about School Performance Profiles, due to their overreliance on standardized test scores and the fact the profiles don't take into account the education needs of each building or the resources available to meet those needs including the impact of the state's nearly $1 billion in school funding cuts since 2011.
Soon, PDE will release District Performance Profiles. Check the Partners website for updates, and watch for more details in upcoming issues of Partners Post.