March 20, 2012
TO: MEMBERS OF THE PENNSYLVANIA GENERAL ASSEMBLY
FROM: PENNSYLVANIA SCHOOL FUNDING CAMPAIGN
SUBJECT: EDUCATION FUNDING AND THE 2012-2013 STATE BUDGET
On behalf of the more than 35 regional and statewide organizations comprising the Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign (PSFC), we urge you to oppose Governor Corbett's 2012-2013 K-12 education budget.
The Governor's proposal reduces learning opportunities for students in Pennsylvania, makes even more unequal our already very unfair system of education opportunity, and shifts more school funding responsibility from the state to local taxpayers. It is a budget that continues to step away from the responsibility to provide sufficient resources to guarantee a high quality education to all the children of Pennsylvania in all school districts.
Here is what is wrong with the Governor's proposed Education Budget and what we urge you to do:
* It is wrong to eliminate the formulas used to provide state support for public education by collapsing Basic Education Funding, Pupil Transportation, Nonpublic and Charter School Pupil Transportation, and School Employees' Social Security into one line item known as the Student Achievement Education Block Grant.
The Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign supports the continued separate funding of the Basic Education Subsidy. These funds have always provided flexible funding for school districts. Pennsylvania school districts are very different from one another. Rural districts and growing districts will be disproportionately affected by abandoning a formula that counts students, looks at the costs associated with student achievement, and uses some measure of the wealth of a community and its ability to support its students.
The Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign supports the continued separate funding and honoring the formulas in place for the calculation of each school district's payments for Pupil Transportation, Nonpublic and Charter Pupil Transportation, and School Employees' Social Security. This is not the time for the state to abandon its formula-driven responsibility to share in the increasing cost of providing transportation for students or paying for social security for employees. In fact, this new "block grant" has nothing to do with student achievement nor does it provide new flexibility to school districts.
* It is wrong to eliminate funding for the Accountability Block Grant program.
The Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign supports restoration of $100 million for the Accountability Block Grant. This program is one which truly provides flexibility for school districts and is used to fund full-day kindergarten, tutoring and other programs proven to increase student achievement. Loss of these funds and the programs they support will have a detrimental effect on student success across the Commonwealth.
* It is wrong to fail to assist school districts with the costs for tuition paid for students attending charter schools especially when special education reimbursements are not capped.
The Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign supports restoring $225 million to reimburse school district tuition for charter schools. The state had been reimbursing school districts up to 30 percent of the tuition cost for students attending charter schools. Since 2003 the General Assembly had recognized the state has a responsibility to share in the costs of charter school tuition with school districts. But this funding was eliminated this school year and had a substantial and inequitable effect on school districts with large populations of poor and minority students.
* It is wrong to maintain a funding mechanism for charter and cyber charter schools that is unfair to school districts.
The Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign supports limiting the charges to school districts for students in Charter and Cyber Charter schools to reflect the actual cost of providing instruction. The tuition rate of the resident school district is the charge paid by a school district. This charge often exceeds the actual cost of the instructional program at the charter school. This is particularly true when it relates to cyber charter schools and students with special needs. It has been ten years since the Charter School law was enacted. It is time to revisit this law and the funding mechanism so that payment to charter schools by school districts does not exceed the actual cost of the program.
* It is wrong to continue to flat fund state support for special education for a fifth year.
The Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign supports at a minimum a cost of living increase for state funding of special education. For the fifth consecutive year, the special education subsidy would be level funded. Once again, local taxpayers would be required to pay for all increased special education program costs
* It is wrong to place a moratorium on the submission to the Department of Education of school construction projects for review and approval for the purpose of the state sharing in the cost of construction.
The Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign supports lifting the moratorium on school construction projects. Across the Commonwealth school districts, in good faith, have undertaken the construction or renovation of school buildings with the assumption, based on current law, that the state would participate in the repayment of the construction costs. Notifying school districts after they have borrowed funds that the repayment is to be solely funded by local taxpayers is irresponsible.
* It is wrong to continue to ignore the state's responsibility to address the nearly dozen school districts facing financial collapse.
The Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign supports the development of a comprehensive plan to guarantee that the students in these districts have the resources available to meet the state's academic standards. Chester Upland School District is just an example of the very real fiscal crisis compounded by the unprecedented and inequitable cuts in state support that occurred this school year. The state is responsible for providing an education to all of its students. The crisis is upon us, the time for action is now.
As in all years, resources to support the state budget are not unlimited. But because it is a constitutionally-mandated responsibility, the General Assembly has a special obligation to the public school system of the Commonwealth and its students.
We urge you to consider our request and are available to discuss these issues with you. Pennsylvania's children are our future and adequately and equitably investing in their education is the only way to assure a bright and successful future for them and for the Commonwealth.
For more information or to discuss these issues further, please call the School Funding Campaign at 717-260-9900 or email to [email protected].
Campaign Steering Committee Members
AFT - Pennsylvania
Alliance for Approved Private Schools
Children's Coalition of the Lehigh Valley
Communities in Schools of Pennsylvania
Education Law Center
Education Voters Pennsylvania
Good Schools PA
Keystone State Education Coalition
Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Art Education Association Pennsylvania Association of Agricultural Educators
Pennsylvania Association of Career and Technical Administrators
Pennsylvania Association of Elementary and Secondary School Principals
Pennsylvania Association of Federal Program Coordinators
Pennsylvania Association for Gifted Education
Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units
Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools
Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators
Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials
Pennsylvania Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center
Pennsylvania Council of Churches
Pennsylvania League of Urban Schools
Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children
Pennsylvania School Boards Association
Pennsylvania School Librarians Association
Pennsylvania School Public Relations Association
Pennsylvania State Conference of NAACP Branches: Education Committee
Pennsylvania State Education Association
Philadelphia Education Fund
Philadelphia Federation of Teachers
Public Citizens for Children and Youth
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
The Consortium for Public Education
The Education Policy and Leadership Center