This Budget Spells Disaster (but will our kids be able to spell it?)

Yesterday Governor Corbett released his proposed budget for 2012-2013, handing more devastating news to Pennsylvania’s schools. Once again, public education is taking an enormous hit it simply cannot afford: if approved, this budget would cut another $95 MILLION on top of the nearly $1 BILLION schools lost last year. And once again, the Governor is suggesting that schools will actually get a modest increase in basic education funding, when in fact, their overall budgets will be reduced.

The fact is, this proposed budget spells disaster for our schools. And with these cuts to education, soon our kids won’t be able to spell D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R.

Here are some details. The Governor has proposed eliminating the Accountability Block Grant, a $100 million program schools largely use to fund full-day Kindergarten and other student programs. Instead, as the Pennsylvania School Boards Association explains, “The governor has floated a new concept in his budget proposal called Student Achievement Education Block Grant, which combines the Basic Education Funding, Pupil Transportation, Nonpublic and Charter School Pupil Transportation, and School Employees’ Social Security funding line items. With this, the administration says, school boards will have flexibility on how their allocation is spent.”

Collapsing line items and calling it “flexibility” while actually slashing overall school budgets is yet another example of “Dishonesty Disguised as Generosity” (a slippery rhetorical device we explored in relationship to similar claims about this year’s budget.)

In reality, as the Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign makes clear, “this year’s budget continues to shift the school funding burden to school districts and local taxpayers.” In addition to the elimination of the Accountability Block Grant, “there are no increases for basic subsidy and special education in a year when school districts are facing substantial, mandated increases in local pension contributions. This will inevitably mean districts must either cut programs further or raise local taxes more.”

Arriving at the same conclusion, The Education Policy and Leadership Center explains that the new combined block grant “would provide an increase of only 3/10 of 1% over last year’s figure … This modest increase apparently covers only increased social security obligations, and provides no real increase for the basic subsidy to districts.” What’s more, most other line items in the proposed budget were either level funded or received a 5 to 10 percent reduction. These include Pre-K Counts, Head Start, Adult and Family Literacy, and Teacher Professional Development. The budget eliminates several programs completely, including the School Nutrition Incentive Program and Job Training Programs.

The proposed budget now moves into the negotiation phase as legislators hold hearings and debate the final budget, which will not be passed until June at the earliest. That means these next several months are crucial: we must make our voices heard in Harrisburg. Come to the Rally for Public Education on Saturday, 11AM-12PM in Schenley Plaza. And see the Take Action! page for more ways to reach out to your legislators. Together we can fight for our schools and our children’s futures.

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