HARRISBURG – The scheduled Aug. 27 payment of more than $876 million to Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts will not occur due to the lack of a state budget, announced Education Secretary Gerald L. Zahorchak.
“This marks the second month we have been legally prohibited from providing districts with state funding, and districts have now missed payments totaling about $1.3 billion for this school year,” Zahorchak said.
“The state budget impasse is really a fight for the future of our students and for our local property taxpayers who pay the cost when the state fails to invest in education adequately,” he added. “Last week’s announcement by the Center on Education Policy that Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation increasing student achievement in reading and math at all grade levels and for all groups of students reinforces the importance of passing a state budget that continues our progress.”
In contrast to Governor Ed Rendell’s balanced budget plan, the budget proposed by the Senate Republicans would cut state funding for education by more than a billion dollars, resulting in deep cuts in many school districts and placing even more of a burden on local property taxes.
The Republican plan would reduce the state’s basic education subsidy by $729 million – using temporary federal stimulus funds to fill the hole for two years but requiring massive local property tax hikes or program cuts when the stimulus funds expire. The Senate Republican plan also fails to implement the second year of Pennsylvania’s landmark school funding formula, which Governor Rendell and legislative Democrats have proposed supporting with a $300 million investment.
In addition, the Senate Republican budget decimates the state’s investments in early childhood education, taking 6,000 children out of the state’s extremely successful pre-kindergarten program — Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts — and removing 2,500 children from state-funded Head Start. Approximately 18,000 high school students earning college credit in accelerated courses would also see their programs eliminated, as would 33,000 elementary children who receive research-based hands-on science education.
Subsidy payments totaling more than $416 million were scheduled to go out on July 30 in what would have been the first payment of the 2009-10 fiscal year. The Sept. 24 subsidy payment also could be impacted by the budget impasse, according to Zahorchak, because it takes about two weeks to authorize payments after a budget is enacted.
The subsidy payments represent the state’s share of public education funding, including appropriations such as basic and special education funding, charter school reimbursement, pupil transportation and the accountability block grant. Districts rely on the monthly payments in determining their annual budgets, as well as payment schedules to district vendors.
“The governor is committed to keeping our students and schools moving forward, rather than adopting a short-sighted strategy of retreating on our progress,” Zahorchak said. “With historic gains in student achievement in reading and math at every grade level, we simply cannot afford to turn back now.”
For details on Governor Rendell’s school funding plan, or for a list of August subsidy payments by school district, visit the Department of Education Web site.