Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Concerns About School Funding as PA Budget Deadline Nears

Pennsylvania legislators are trying to close the state budget gap without raising new revenue. (Jim Bowen/Flickr)
Pennsylvania legislators are trying to close the state budget gap without raising new revenue. (Jim Bowen/Flickr)
Andrea Sears, Public News Service

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Education advocates in Pennsylvania are concerned that a proposed increase in school funding may be in jeopardy. The budget is due June 30, and the state is facing a $2 billion to $3 billion budget gap.

As lawmakers try to close that gap without raising new revenue, said Susan Spicka, executive director of the group Education Voters of Pennsylvania, everything is up for grabs.

"We're hearing that Gov. (Tom) Wolf's proposed $100 million increase in Basic Education Funding is now on the table," she said, "and that that could be cut or even completely eliminated from the budget."

The House passed a budget in April that includes the governor's $100 million increase in school funding. Even that amount, Spicka said, wouldn't begin to give Pennsylvania kids what they need in their classrooms.

"But $100 million is still a lot of money," she said, "and what it's going to do is allow school districts to at least not go as far backward as they otherwise might go without this funding increase."

She pointed out that districts around the state already have incorporated the increase into their planning.

"They've passed budgets that have counted on at least some of this money," she said, "and so if this money isn't there when schools come back in the fall, then school districts are going to have huge holes in their budgets."

Advocates have estimated that the state needs to invest more than $3 billion in education to achieve adequate funding and restore years of budget cuts to schools.