School districts across Pennsylvania are on life support. After massive defunding of public education by the state the past two years, schools have made so many cuts there is almost nothing left to remove. A new study out this week reveals just how big this gaping wound is where strong public schools ought to be.
The Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO) and the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA) surveyed all 500 school districts in May, and received responses from 187 (for a response rate of 37%). The results are sobering (all data from PASBO/PASA School Finance Report, June 2013):
- 75% of districts will continue to make cuts to educational programs this year – more than in either of the past two years.
- 47% of school districts expect to increase class size in 2013-14. That’s on top of larger class sizes imposed by 51% of districts last year, and 70% of districts the year before.
- 37% plan to reduce courses such as world languages, art, music, physical education and even some in math, science, English and social studies. Elective courses were already reduced by 43% of schools in 2012-13 and 44% of schools the year before that.
- 23% will delay the purchase of textbooks (following 40 and 41% of districts that delayed such purchases in the previous two years).
- 22% of districts will reduce or eliminate tutoring program for struggling students (on top of the 32 and 35% of districts that did this the past two years).
- 13% more districts will eliminate summer school (following 21% and 19% that cut these programs in the past two years).
- 31% will further reduce or eliminate student field trips (in addition to 43 and 55% in each of the past two years).
- 22% will reduce or eliminate extra-curriculars, including sports or will establish/increase fees for participation. That’s on top of the 30 and 33% of districts that have already done so in the past two years.
- 8% of districts will close school buildings this year. (7% closed buildings in 2012-13 and 10% in 2011-12).
- 64% will continue to decrease staff, with over 20% planning furloughs.
Despite these severe cuts, more than 70% of school districts are dipping into their fund balances to try to pay for basic educational programming. While the calculator-wielding business professionals at PASBO and PASA consider a one-time dip into these rainy-day funds acceptable, they call the current rate of depletion “alarming” and explain that, “sustained use of fund balance in this manner is fiscally devastating.” Those are strong words from accountants.
In laymen’s terms, our public schools are bleeding out. Governor Corbett needs to stop making ridiculous claims that he has increased education funding. Our schools can’t take any more lies or cuts. It’s time to put our resources back into public education, for the sake of our schools, our communities, and our kids.