During the Rendell administration, education funding was increased to over $3 billion to make up for adequacy gaps. A “costing out” study was performed during his tenure that showed Pennsylvania must allocate additional funding per pupil to poorer schools to even out student learning statewide. However, when Governor Corbett took office in 2011, much of this funding was reversed or eliminated completely. Since then, our state has taken great strides backwards when it comes to education funding.
The Governor’s proposed education budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year takes school districts back to 2008-09 funding levels, but does not recognize that school district expenses have increased drastically during these hard economic times. In addition, the budget fails to recognize the elimination of several important categorical funding streams that have been phased out since Gov. Corbett took office. Overall, school districts will receive around $351 million less in 2012-13 than they received in 2008-09.
As a result of these cuts, many school districts have had to dip into their reserves to make ends meet and these reserves no longer exist to compensate for another round of cuts. The Governor’s school funding plan will force local tax increases, since communities and local governments will have no other funding options available to them. This will also result in a continued increase in class size and additional devastating cuts and lay-offs.
To add insult to injury, the Governor has tried to sell the proposed education budget as an increase in funding. However, a closer look at the numbers suggest otherwise. In Pennsylvania’s 2011-12 budget, the Governor declined to replace federal stimulus funds, which the Obama administration allocated to states in 2009 and 2010. As of result of these actions, almost $900 million was eliminated for education funding in 2011-12 and will not be restored again in his proposed 2012-13 budget.
Children are the key to our future and we need to do everything in our power to help students excel. The devastating cuts that our schools faced in last year’s budget process had unfair consequences. Students’ ability to learn should not be what is sacrificed in these budget battles and that was one of the main reasons I voted against last year’s budget, which decreased funding for public education for the 2011-2012 school year.
We cannot sit back any longer and turn a blind eye to our students’ needs. On February 29th, I participated in a forum hosted by Partners for Public Education at South Fayette High School. The crowd of approximately 150 came together to hear from public school officials, administrators and students on the importance of a strong public education system throughout the Commonwealth. The mission of Partners for Public Education is to bring people together – parents, students, administrators, elected officials, community leaders – and speak with one voice to raise awareness of the issues facing public education.
Now more than ever, it’s important that students have “partners” to support and properly fund public education. Educating our students needs to be a priority in this Commonwealth but based on last year’s budget and this year’s proposed budget, it is clear this is not the case. To learn more about Partners for Public Education and to register as a “partner,” please visit their website at www.partnersforpubliced.org.
Please be reassured that I will continue to be a voice by supporting legislation that restores funding to schools during this upcoming fiscal year. We cannot continue to let the Governor’s agenda of investing in prison funding over schools be a priority in Pennsylvania. Let’s stand up to this administration and let him know that education funding cuts once were already too many.