School leaders ask that the General Assembly maintain investments for public education in the 2020-21 state budget without reductions in basic education, special education and other state subsidies. The General Assembly’s swift, bipartisan support of Act 13 of 2020 provided essential state-level guidance and continuity to schools, and demonstrated a commitment to protecting the health and safety of students, educators, and their families – while at the same time maintaining a steadfast commitment to the delivery of public education as a core function of government. School leaders urge legislators to remain steadfast in their support of public education as we move into the next weeks and months ahead.
- Although school buildings are closed, expenses have not lessened and districts are stretching financial, technical and creative resources to bring meals, education through virtual learning, and services to children. Schools moved quickly to purchase and deliver devices for students to receive instruction, such as laptops, iPads, tablets, Wi-Fi hotspot devices etc. Taking various steps to provide internet access to students and staff has been especially challenging and expensive for many districts.
- There is a misconception that school districts are saving millions of dollars because their doors are closed, and therefore they are not paying for substitute teachers, utilities, classroom supplies or diesel fuel for buses, among other things, including the cancellation of spring sports and other activities. Act 13 required school districts to continue paying normal school district bills, including the costliest expenses such as salaries, pensions, and charter school tuition. There are still utility bills and other operational costs. Coaches and other employees still must be paid.
- Any potential savings that a district may have found were quickly absorbed into the additional expenses incurred in shifting to remote instruction.
- Due to the economic implications of this pandemic, school districts face declining local revenue collection that is projected to range from $850 million to more than $1 billion for 2020-21.
- Even as the work continues to finish the 2019-20 school year, districts are also thinking to the weeks and months ahead. School leaders have been told to “prepare for the best, but plan for the worst” in order to keep students safe and healthy for a fall reopening. New requirements will bring new local challenges and additional costs.
- School districts need support from the General Assembly as they continue to navigate these new and developing situations with the health and safety of their students in mind.