This 48-page document highlights the many successes and challenges facing public education in Pennsylvania in an effort to ignite a collaborative and informed discussion between school leaders, policymakers, media and the public.
This year’s report covers a vast array of statistics gathered from publicly available data sources, responses from a survey sent to all school district superintendents and polling of parents with school-age children. It delves into various topic areas, including school finances, budget pressures, teacher shortages and student mental health issues.
As highlighted in this year’s At a Glance, two of the most significant challenges districts faced were addressing student mental health needs and the budget pressure caused by covering mandated expenses.
More than eight out of 10 superintendents reported student mental health issues as being a challenge to educating students, making it by far the biggest instructional challenge facing schools.
School districts have also taken a variety of approaches to addressing student mental health issues. Most districts have sought to contract or partner with local mental health care providers in their area while other schools have shared mental health services or hired additional mental health staff.
When parents were asked to rate the performance of their child’s school in addressing the mental health of students, more than three-quarters of parents rated their school’s performance as “good.” Three-quarters of parents also agreed that there was an adult in their child’s school that their child could talk to if they had a concern.
Once again school leaders identified budget pressures as one of the biggest challenges they are facing. The top sources of budget pressure for school districts are mandated expenses – those which they have little or no control over – such as charter school tuition payments, special education costs and pensions.
Over the last decade, growth in mandated pension, charter school tuition and special education costs have surpassed state revenues intended to help pay those costs by more than $3.7 billion, forcing school leaders to make difficult choices, such as raising local property taxes or making cuts to educational programs and services.
Districts have risen to the challenge of addressing both of these concerns and are providing their students with the support they need to receive a quality public education.