(Harrisburg, Pa.) — Local school leaders and education advocates across the state gathered today in their communities to call for greater state investment in schools and to highlight the difficult decisions local leaders face in balancing school budgets. Superintendents were joined by other administrators and education policy experts to call on the state legislature to at least increase state funding to cover rising mandated costs this school year and the next – costs that even state legislative leaders admit should not be paid for with one-time federal dollars. Events took place in six regions across the state: Pittsburgh, Lancaster, the Lehigh Valley, the Philadelphia area, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and Williamsport. Details about those events are below, including links to video recordings where available.
26 school districts were represented at today’s events by school administrators and board members.
Decades of underfunding for basic education, special education, and career and technical education – including last year’s flat funding – have continually weakened the fiscal foundation of our schools. The pandemic delivered a one-two punch to Pennsylvania schools already facing a challenging task of budgeting for the 2021-22 school year: a drop in local revenues during the COVID-driven economic slowdown and a spike in costs to educate students and keep them safe during this unprecedented crisis.
In the current school year, state funding for basic education and special education was flat. School districts are being forced to cover state and federal mandated costs that will spike $1.15 billion over this school year and next according to estimates modeled by the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO). School leaders called on the state to increase investments to cover these rising costs.
School districts are required to finalize their 2021-22 school budgets by the end of May.
“These events in regions across the state bring attention to the challenges that schools face to ensure that all students have the resources they need to succeed,” said Mark D Mark DiRocco, Executive Director of the PA Association of School Administrators. “With students back in the classroom, schools are focusing on getting them back on track. But Pennsylvania ranks 44th in the country in the state’s budget share of education costs, and this affects urban districts, suburban districts, and rural districts alike. While federal relief funds are being used for one-time COVID costs, the state must provide enough funding for ongoing schools costs that will be with districts long after the federal stimulus dollars are gone – including special education and career and technical education. This will allow districts to keep pace with inflation and give them the ability to invest in our kids and their future.”
Events took place in the following areas:
Lancaster/York: Penn Manor School District as host. VIDEO HERE.
Pittsburgh: Franklin Regional School District as host. VIDEO HERE.
Allentown/Lehigh Valley: Bethlehem Area School District as host. VIDEO HERE.
Northeastern PA: Abington Heights School District as host.
North-Central PA: Williamsport School District as host.
Philadelphia Area – Bensalem School District. VIDEO HERE.
Participating school districts (26):
Franklin Regional School District
Northgate School District
McKeesport Area School District
Lehigh Valley (3):
Bethlehem Area School District
Salisbury School District
Northeastern PA (7)
Dunmore School District
Carbondale Area School District
Scranton School District
Abington Heights School District
Mid Valley School District
Valley View School District
Lakeland School District
Penn Manor School District
Eastern Lancaster County School District
Cumberland Valley School District
South Eastern School District
Williamsport Area School District
Canton Area School District
Montgomery Area School District
East Lycoming School District
Bensalem Township School District
Morrisville School District
Centennial School District
School District of Philadelphia
Bristol Borough School District
Bucks County Intermediate Unit
Bucks County Technical High School (serving Bensalem School District, Bristol Borough School District, Morrisville School District, Bristol Township, Neshaminy School District, and Pennsbury School District)