CLEARFIELD – A gloomy upcoming-year budget picture continues to hover over the Clearfield Area School District Board of Directors who Monday night learned their state funding losses have grown from a week ago.
Business Administrator Sam Maney last week estimated the district faced a $1.8 million cut in state funding this upcoming year. However, after attending a Webinar, the district’s losses have increased to approximately $2 million, he said.
Maney said 15 education line items either saw cuts, or were completely eliminated, and, of those, Clearfield was affected in five areas. Those programs included the following: the Basic Education Subsidy, the Accountability Block Grant, the Education Assistance Program; and both the Charter School and Dual Enrollment Reimbursements.
Under Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed budget, the basic education funding has been reset to the 2008-09 level, which was the last year before federal stimulus funds were available. While $550 million, or 10 percent, was slashed in basic education funding, the governor completely eliminated accountability grants and EAP, which across the state accounted for $259 million and $47.6 million, respectively.
In other business, the school board formally passed a resolution and opposed Senate Bill 1 by a 6-3 vote, which would implement a tuition voucher program.
Board members Dave Glass, Rick Schickling, Tim Morgan, Jennifer Wallace, Larry Putt and Phil Carr favored the resolution. Board members Mary Anne Jackson, Dr. Michael Spencer and Susan Mikesell cast the opposing votes.
If enacted by state lawmakers, over the first two years, the program would make taxpayer-funded vouchers available to low-income students in 144 failing schools. It would then enable these students to transfer to other public schools or private and parochial schools.
By the third year of it implementation, the program would provide vouchers to all low-income students who are in households at the 130 percent poverty marker statewide despite of their residency.
According to the resolution, a tuition voucher program, an over-expansion of any existing tax credit program or incentivizing a student’s transfer out of the public education system takes financial resources from traditional public schools. Also, it diminishes the strides made in those schools and increases the burden on the taxpayers and their resident school districts.
Unlike non-public and private schools, the resolution states that public school districts accept and educate children regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or academic talents, as opposed to those institutions that are able to reject applications based on low academic performances, discipline issues or any number of other factors.
In addition, public schools are held to strict accountability standards in an effort to measure student achievement and academic progress, while private and parochial schools are not required to administer state assessments or publish student achievement data.
“There is no consistent evidence to demonstrate that students who utilize vouchers make any better academic progress in non-public or private schools than they did prior to transferring,” the resolution states. “The Clearfield Area School District opposes Senate Bill 1 . . . or any other program that would have an effect similar to that of a tuition voucher program and encourages its elected officials to oppose the same.”