February 15, 2012

Public school students need state support, not accounting tricks

Using a complicated fiscal shell game to “redesign school and district” basic education funding, Gov. Tom Corbett's state budget proposal represents an unwise experiment that will cause chaos in the public schools and eliminate research-tested, classroom-proven programs.

PSEA President Mike Crossey said that the governor’s budget proposal would do nothing to avert the growing financial crisis in Pennsylvania’s school districts.

“This proposal is an unwise experiment with the education of 1.8 million public school students,” Crossey said. “It leaves school officials and property taxpayers to figure out how to close a two-year, nearly $1 billion funding gap.”

The governor’s budget proposal uses an accounting gimmick, combining line items for employee Social Security contributions and transportation costs in an attempt to create the appearance of an increase in the state’s main basic education subsidy to public schools. As a result, school districts could receive $94 million less in state funding that will actually go to support students in the classroom. (See chart below.)





in $ thousands



Student Achievement Education Block Grants


Basic Education Funding



Accountability Block Grants



Pupil Transportation



Nonpublic Pupil Transportation



School Employees Social Security



Total (Combined Lines)



Change from 2011-12



“Public schools are facing the second year of dramatic state funding cuts,” Crossey said. “Public school students need state support for programs that work, not accounting tricks.”

Gov. Corbett suggested that school districts “adjust” to meet their own needs. Unfortunately his budget once again leaves them with fewer resources, and the only “adjustments” are likely to be even larger classes, elimination of additional programs, and fewer opportunities for children, Crossey said.

Gov. Corbett’s budget proposal did not even mention, much less address, the plight facing districts in fiscal crisis like Chester Upland and York City – districts which may not be able to pay their bills in the current academic year.

Crossey pointed out that Gov. Corbett’s budget cuts have so far eliminated more than half a billion dollars in state support for programs that have helped to increase student achievement over the past decade(See chart below.) As a result, school districts now have no state help to cover growing charter school payments and will lose all accountability block grant funds, which pay for full-day kindergarten and class size reduction initiatives. To make matters worse, the Corbett administration has also cut the basic education subsidy by $420 million.


FY 2010-2011

FY 2011-2012

FY 2012-2013

(Gov. Proposed)

Charter School Reimbursement Program





Accountability Block Grant Program







Education Assistance (Tutoring) Program




Dual Enrollment Program




Basic Education Subsidy (for classroom instruction)







“For the second year in a row, the governor wants to reverse course on smart public school investments that work for our students,” Crossey said. “So far, his public education track record is all about cutting effective programs.”

According to Crossey, school districts across the state have already cut programs and staff. In the wake of this proposal, public schools will be forced to raise taxes or cut even more. A study released by the Pennsylvania School Administrators Association and the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials in September indicated that:

  • 70 percent of school districts increased class sizes.
  • 44 percent of school districts reduced course offerings.
  • 35 percent of school districts reduced or eliminated tutoring programs.
  • 14,159 school district positions were eliminated or left vacant.

“Public school students need their elected state officials to be the responsible adults who will provide for their education, instead of hiding behind accounting tricks to paper over that responsibility,” Crossey said. “Public school students deserve a great education. It’s up to all of us – teachers, school administrators, citizens, and elected state officials - to assume some responsibility, and make sure they get a quality education.”

“Gov. Corbett’s massive budget cuts are hurting students across the Commonwealth,” Crossey said. “The students can’t afford another year of devastating cuts, especially when there are better options to balance the budget.”




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