Unprecedented state budget cuts put more school districts in financial distress
The Corbett Administration finally agreed to provide the financially-strapped Chester Upland School District with the funds it needs to keep its doors open, but the governor's unprecedented, draconian state funding cuts are wreaking havoc in school districts across the state.
During a Jan. 24 Senate Education Committee hearing on financially distressed school districts, PSEA President Mike Crossey said that Gov. Tom Corbett’s $860 million in school funding cuts is likely to put a growing list of school districts in financial distress.
“Chester Upland is merely the first domino to fall in this education funding crisis,” Crossey said. “The education budget cuts of 2011-2012 were disproportionately targeted toward many financially struggling districts and this has resulted in devastating consequences.”
Crossey cited Associated Press reports, indicating that urban school districts like Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Reading, and York lost 10 times more in state aid than affluent school districts. He underscored that restoring state budget cuts is key to ensuring that these school districts can provide the public education their students deserve.
“It isn’t realistic to believe that improvements can be made or that these districts, literally, can be saved without additional funding,” Crossey said. “You can’t improve a school district by cutting its funding. It just doesn’t make sense.”
Crossey added that financially distressed school districts have slashed programs and increased class sizes in the aftermath of the state funding cuts. As a result, the programs students need to receive a high-quality education have been severely curtailed.
State legislators said they are hopeful an agreement will be reached with Gov. Corbett to fund the Chester Upland public schools for the remainder of the academic year. Crossey emphasized that the crisis points to the consequences funding cuts are having on Pennsylvania’s most needy students.
“The funding crisis is so bad that state government needed to take unprecedented measures just to keep the Chester Upland schoolhouse doors open until June, just to make sure that 3,600 students get the public education to which they are legally entitled, and just to make sure that the school district can pay its bills,” Crossey said.
Crossey asked committee members to focus on providing the funding that struggling schools need to pay for programs that are proven to work for their students, like those outlined in PSEA’s Solutions That Work proposal. These Solutions That Work include early childhood education, smaller class sizes, additional learning time for struggling students, and parental involvement.
“For financially distressed districts to invest in programs that are proven to improve student learning, there is a need for targeted funding,” Crossey said. “There is no question that money matters. In order to provide quality educational opportunities to every student, sufficient resources are critical – of that there is no doubt.”
Learn more at www.solutionsthatworkpa.org.