FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sr. Director of Communications
717.506.2450 ext. 3315
PSBA's Perspective on the Governor's Budget
February 5, 2019 [Mechanicsburg, PA] The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA), following today's release of the 2019-2020 Proposed State Education Appropriations, affirms its appreciation to Gov. Tom Wolf for again promoting an increased investment in education by proposing a $200 million boost in the basic education funding (BEF) subsidy for the 2019-20 fiscal year. The budget proposal also includes a $50 million increase for special education.
“PSBA commends the governor’s steady commitment to public schools, and we are appreciative of the investments made in the basic education subsidy during the last four years. The proposed budget would continue needed investments as the cost of mandated programs and services continues to rise,” said PSBA CEO Nathan G. Mains.
For example, while state and federal special education appropriations have increased nearly $190 million over the last 11 years, public school expenses for special education have increased by an estimated $2.3 billion, an average rate of 5.8% annually. The relatively slow growth in state and federal funding for special education combined with significant increases in mandated special education expenses have further exacerbated school districts’ reliance on local funding sources such as property taxes.
PSBA is also appreciative of funds to address school safety, building on the efforts made last year, including the establishment of a new grant program and the passage of Act 44 of 2018. The association has continued to emphasize the importance of dedicated resources that provide funds allowing districts to implement projects best suited to their needs, ranging from building security to student mental health and counseling services.
“While Pennsylvania has made significant progress towards protecting students and staff, there is still much to do as we build on Act 44 and continue to develop sound policies. One thing learned during the grant application process was that the need expressed by schools far outweighed the available resources allocated. In the hundreds of applications received, more than $320 million in grant requests were reportedly made, far surpassing the initial state investment,” Mains said. The proposed budget earmarks $45 million for the School Safety and Security Fund.
Another critical issue is the need to address aging, deteriorating, and inadequate school facilities. PSBA is disappointed that the governor’s budget did not include funding for school building projects or address the need to reform the state’s reimbursement program for construction and renovation projects. Since the moratorium on new PlanCon applications took effect in 2016, school buildings have continued to deteriorate. Nearly one-third of school district buildings are in need of replacement or major renovation. The biggest obstacle to construction and renovation projects is financial considerations. As a result, more than half of districts postponed maintenance and renovation projects. With recommendations from the bi-partisan Public School Building Construction & Reconstruction Advisory Committee awaiting legislative action, PSBA asserts that the time is right to institute and fund a new PlanCon process that will serve schools for years to come.
Public schools continue to face huge increases in mandated costs outside of their control, including expenditures for pensions and charter school tuition. Mains commented, “While mandatory pensions and charter school tuition payments continue to soar, school districts are forced to make difficult choices. Many school districts have reported increasing class sizes; cutting staff, courses, programs, and clubs; or postponing technology upgrades and building repairs. Many of these actions have the potential to negatively impact student achievement.”
PSBA looks forward to working with the General Assembly throughout the budget process to ensure public education funding continues to move in the right direction.
PSBA is a nonprofit statewide association of public school boards, pledged to the highest ideals of local lay leadership for the public schools of the commonwealth. Founded in 1895, PSBA was the first school boards association established in the United States.