Representatives of several education leadership associations today released the 2018 State of Education report (https://www.psba.org/SOE-2018) highlighting the many successes and challenges facing public education in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

This comprehensive report includes a vast array of statistics gathered from publicly available data sources as well as December 2017 survey responses from school principals and school districts, career and technology centers, and intermediate unit chief school administrators. The report delves into school finances, student achievement, budget pressures and educational equity, to name a few.

Some key findings:

Survey respondents identified the top three challenges facing education as budget pressures (83%), implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (24%) and school construction/maintenance (22%). While pension costs (82%), charter school payments (52%) and special education costs (37%) were identified as the top budget pressures.

Mandatory pension costs have increased more than 450% between 2009-10 and 2015-16 and now account for more than 10% of all school district spending. Initial forecasts for pension contributions made at the time of last year’s pension reform legislation (Act 5 of 2017) predict pension increases until 2036, so school districts will not see any relief from pension costs for another 17 years.

The State of Education report also examines the achievement gap and disparities in funding between school districts with the highest and lowest levels of poverty. On 2017 state assessments, proficiency rates in school districts with the highest poverty were an average of 33% below the lowest poverty school districts while attempting to overcome the barriers to success presented by poverty with more than $2,000 less in per student funding.

Organizations partnering in this effort to release the second State of Education Report are Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA), Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units (PAIU), Pennsylvania Association of Career and Technical Administrators (PACTA), Pennsylvania Principals Association, Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA), and the Pennsylvania Public Education Foundation (PaPEF).

“PACTA believes that the state of career and technical education in the state is strong and is serving both students and employers well. Our students are well prepared to enter the workforce immediately after high school and to continue their education,” said Jackie Cullen, PACTA executive director.

“If we measure both the successes and challenges of public education, we are in a better position to find solutions that will make a difference for children,” said Tom Gluck, PAIU executive director. “Ultimately, this is why The State of Education report is important and why PAIU is pleased to be a partner in the effort.”

“School directors, superintendents, teachers, staff members, parents, and community members have worked together to provide our children with the best education possible under difficult circumstances, said Dr. Mark DiRocco, PASA executive director. Adequate financial resources will be required to ensure that we not only meet our mandated financial obligations, but keep the promise of a quality education to all our children.”

“Our public schools have been faced with inadequate state funding while costs in health care, pensions, charter schools, and general operational expenses have dramatically escalated. As a result, schools have curtailed programs and reduced personnel at alarming rates in order to balance their budgets from one year to the next,” said Dr. Paul Healey, PA Principals Association executive director.

“Pennsylvania’s commitment to public schools continue to show great return despite ever-increasing mandates and other challenges, but also highlights areas that need to be addressed to ensure schools can overcome those challenges and every student receives the effective and equitable education needed to succeed,” said PaPEF Executive Director Christina Griffiths.

“Public schools are confronted with the challenge of overcoming whatever barriers to achievement are present in each student, school, and surrounding community,” said PSBA Chief Executive Officer Nathan G. Mains. “Overcoming those barriers and providing educational equity takes planning and adequate resources, both of which present unique challenges for every public school. Public school leaders are ready to meet the challenges facing public education so that every student has the opportunity to reach their highest potential.”

An “at a glance” summary of the full report is now available online at https://www.psba.org/SOE-2018-ataglance.

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