HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign (PSFC) noted with alarm today Governor Tom Corbett’s $549.9 million cut in combined state and federal basic education funding, returning it to the 2008-09 funding level. The overall cut for schools in his 2011-12 budget is $589.8 million.
“The General Assembly took historic action beginning in 2008 to put the state back on track toward a fair, equitable, and rational school funding system for the first time in two decades,” said Ron Cowell, president of The Education Policy and Leadership Center and PSFC spokesperson. “Today’s proposal is a distressing step backward, one that will dramatically weaken our children’s education” he added.
“Student achievement has increased significantly across the state in recent years, and this reflects the impact of state and federal funds invested in our schools,” according to Jim Buckheit, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators. “Students cannot put their education on hold while waiting for state revenues to recover. This is no time to turn back the clock,” he added.
Shelley Yanoff, executive director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth, noted that “our children don’t get a second chance at kindergarten or third grade or their junior year of high school. They cannot afford to have the state take a year off from its commitment to fund their education properly.”
School districts are currently developing budgets for the next school year and are in the third year of “dealing with shrinking local revenues that have been battered by the recession. Every day we read about districts that are planning to lay off teachers and other staff, increase class size, and drop academic programs,” said Jay Himes, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials.
During the past two years, the state has used federal funds to increase school funding and cover a 9% reduction in its own support, according to Cowell. “The expiration of federal funding and the proposed reduction or elimination of 17 budget line items mean schools will get 6.2% less than they are receiving this year,” Cowell said.
“Our future as a Commonwealth depends upon highly educated citizens,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, executive director of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association. “We hope that as the General Assembly deliberates on the Governor’s proposal it will find ways to keep from cutting school funding. It is the best investment we can make in our own future prosperity,” he added.
The Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign is an unprecedented coalition of more than 30 statewide and regional education and advocacy organizations representing hundreds of thousands of parents, students, educators, school board members, administrators, and other concerned citizens advocating for adequate and equitable funding of Pennsylvania’s public schools.