150+ School Leaders Rally at Capitol for Funding and Relief from Costly Legislative Mandates
HARRISBURG, Pa., April 25, 2022 – Today, more than 150 public school leaders, including superintendents and school board directors, convened at the Capitol to call for increased investments in public education in the 2022-23 state budget and mandate relief as part of a joint advocacy day hosted by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) and the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA).
In support of their requests, the gathered school leaders detailed how legislative mandates are the primary source of stress in school district budgets and, without the state providing adequate funding to help pay the costs associated with those mandates, local taxpayers are left to pay those costs in the form of property tax increases.
“Pennsylvania’s public schools continue to act in a fiscally responsible manner with the use of taxpayer dollars,” said PSBA CEO Nathan Mains during a midday press conference. “Other than increases in state-mandated pension and charter school tuition payments, school districts have held increases in expenses below the rate of inflation.”
Over the last decade, growth in state-mandated pension and charter school tuition costs have far exceeded state revenue provided to districts. Between 2010 and 2019, those two costs increased more than $4.7 billion while state funding to help pay those costs only increased nearly $1.8 billion, leaving school districts on their own to find the remaining $2.9 billion.
“Even if school districts utilized every dollar of the increases received in Basic Education Funding to pay for pension and charter cost increases over the last decade, that would still leave local taxpayers on the hook for $2.4 billion in state-mandated pension and charter school costs,” said Craig Hummer, board treasurer at Elizabethtown Area School District.
This year, school districts are estimated to spend $3 billion in mandatory tuition payments to charter schools. However, due to flaws in the 25-year-old law used to determine how charter schools are funded, school districts will send hundreds of millions of dollars more to charter schools than are needed to provide an education.
Eugene DePasquale, Keystone Center for Charter Change resident and former auditor general of Pennsylvania, said, “To date, 421 locally elected volunteer boards of school directors across the state have passed resolutions calling upon the General Assembly to meaningfully revise the existing flawed charter school funding systems. These resolutions represent overwhelming bipartisan support for the General Assembly to take action.”
In addition to pension and charter school mandates, under federal law and state regulations, districts must provide a free, appropriate education to all students, including those who need special education programs and services. Over the past decade, districts have experienced a 61.5% increase in special education expenses, but funding has only increased 4.4% in that time.
“For most school districts, the difference is made up of entirely from local funding such as property taxes or other adjustments in order to pay for these costs,” said John Sanville, superintendent of Unionville-Chadds Ford School District.
The press conference concluded with Mark DiRocco, executive director of PASA, summarizing the day’s points by requesting:
- Historic investment in BEF
- Targeted investments in the Level Up supplement
- At least a $200 million increase in special education funding
- Charter school funding reform
- $25 million increase for career and technical education programs
- $60 million to address student mental health needs
Both PSBA and PASA, along with the school leaders these organizations represent, urge the General Assembly to take action as the June 30 deadline to craft a 2022-23 state budget nears.
About PSBA: As the first school board association, PSBA has provided services, advocacy and counsel to inform and engage the local lay leadership of the commonwealth's public schools for more than 125 years. PSBA represents over 4,500 school directors, with voluntary membership encompassing nearly 100% of school entities statewide. Leading the charge with the unified voice of members, advocates and partners, PSBA is dedicated to promoting exceptional public education for Pennsylvania's students.
Contact: Mackenzie Arcuri
Senior Manager of Media Relations and Strategy