Nearly half of the spending increase is to feed the pension fund
The numbers look good, but they only tell part of the story.
Education was by far the biggest winner in the 2018-19 state budget passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Tom Wolf last week, hauling in more than $450 million in new funding. But nearly half of that, just over $223 million, will go to the underfunded pension program for school employees.
And while school districts across the state saw increases in their basic and special education funding, and will eventually see small increases in their Ready to Learn Block grants, many will still face challenges with rising costs.
“While we commend our Berks County state legislators for their continued commitment of education, many school districts will continue to struggle financially because these additional funds may not be enough to cover the increases school districts are projecting for contractual salary obligations, pension increases, medical increases, special education costs and charter school costs,” said Carl Blessing, assistant to the executive director at the Berks County Intermediate Unit.
Despite that, Blessing said the budget was positive overall for public education.
“The additional funds allocated for Basic Education Funding and Special Education Funding is good news for the state’s 500 school districts,” he said.