School districts face extensive funding decreases

TEMP ORARY February 2, 2012 0

Still financially and structurally reeling from last year’s state education budget cuts, public school districts across Pennsylvania are preparing for the revealing of Governor Corbett’s new state budget in two weeks.

Corbett’s budget last year slashed $860 million in public school funding, causing districts all over the state to suffer enormously in the current school year. There are 500 school districts in Pennsylvania and many of them have been forced to lay off teachers and staff, freeze salaries, get rid of some programs entirely (including the arts, music, gifted and after-school programs), increase class sizes and much more. Many local districts have been severely affected by the funding cuts.

Cumberland Valley School District administrators presented their school board with budget recommendations for the 2012-2013 school year on Saturday, Jan. 28. They proposed not replacing eight full-time elementary school teachers and four full-time secondary school teachers who are retiring; downsizing middle school and high school family and consumer science, resulting in the loss of four full-time teachers; restructuring alternative education; downsizing the middle school math clinic and reducing the number of hours for substitute teachers.

For the 2013-2014 school year, the administrators proposed cutting seven elementary instructional specialists, eliminating the middle school world language program entirely and removing Latin, French and Chinese from the high school world language program, according to The Sentinel.

West Shore School District is currently cutting hundreds of thousands of dollars from its educational programs for the next school year, making up for a $3.7 million budget shortfall. In the last year, the district has restructured its family and consumer science program, eliminated an environmental education program and furloughed literacy and technology coaches. In a recent meeting, the school board passed a preliminary budget which downsizes middle school world language classes, librarian services, instructional coaches and the gifted program. All school district budgets in the state can be altered until June per the Pennsylvania Department of Education, so the board is considering other options, including combining extracurricular activities and sports at Red Land and Cedar Cliff high schools.

Elizabethtown Area School District has approved a preliminary budget for 2012-2013, which includes about a six percent tax increase. In the last year, Harrisburg School District had to remove full-day kindergarten, eliminate middle school football and high school cross country and tennis and close a school for alternative education classes.

Recently, Central Dauphin School District’s board approved a preliminary budget,which will result in a property tax increase of 3.3 percent, larger class sizes and furloughs of at most 50 district employees.

Susquehanna Township School District relies on local funding sources for more than 80 percent of revenue, which will fall nearly $400,000 short in the 2012-2013 school year, according to projections by the school board.

The problems from the funding cuts have affected districts all across Pennsylvania, from Philadelphia to Erie. Chester-Upland School District in Delaware County received a state bailout after running out of money to pay its staff. Corbett refused each previous request from the district for financial aid because he believed the district had failed to manage its finances properly, forcing Chester Upland to lay off 40 percent of its staff last fall. This bailout only allows the district to remain open until Feb. 23, so the school board is suing the state for the funding necessary to keep its schools open until the end of the school year in June. Though the district was already in financial distress prior to the cuts, once it ran out of money to pay salaries in the beginning of January, the 204 teachers and 64 support staff kept working to provide students with the education they deserve.

State College Area School District is looking into charging students a fee to play sports, perform in the band and participate in clubs in order to restore a few programs that were eliminated due to the cuts in state funding. A few districts in Pennsylvania already charge such a fee, and Chambersburg Area School District plans to collect $100 from each participating student in the next school year. Erie City School District might run out of money before the 2011-2012 school year ends, resulting in an inability to pay vendors or creditors.

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