Legislative leaders have begun holding closed-door meetings to hash out a 2017-2018 state budget. On Monday, June 19th, state lawmakers will return to Harrisburg, where they will have less than two weeks to pass a balanced budget by the June 30th deadline. The decisions they make over the next few weeks will have a lasting impact on our public schools and our communities.
On Monday, June 19th from 11 am-1 pm, Ed Voters will be joining a Budget Call-In Day to call on our state lawmakers to pass a responsible, balanced budget that raises adequate new revenue and includes Governor Wolf’s proposed increases of $100 million in Basic Education Funding and $25 million in Special Education funding.
In order for all PA students to go to public schools with the resources and supports they need to receive a quality public education, the state must raise new revenue that can be used to make a significant new investment into our public schools.
Unfortunately, for years the state legislature has passed gimmick-filled budgets that use one-time revenues to pay for recurring costs. As a result, the legislature faces a deficit of nearly $3 billion in the 2017-2018 budget that must be closed through both cutting costs and raising new revenues.
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale and State Treasurer Joe Torsella recently issued a startling warning. If the legislature doesn’t pass a truly balanced budget this year, the state treasury is so depleted that it will need to borrow money from an outside lender just to pay the bills.
If state lawmakers pass another irresponsible budget, taxpayers will be on the hook for interest payments for massive loans, significant future increases in school funding will be out of reach, and cuts in education funding may even be on the table.
We cannot afford a state budget that fails to support PA’s public school students. Pennsylvania’s state funding system for schools is both unfair and inadequate and without new revenue in the state budget, it will get worse .
Pennsylvania ranks 46th in the nation in state share for K-12 funding. PA provides just 37% of funding for our schools; the national average of state share is around 45%. When state funding is inadequate, communities in PA must raise the money they need to pay for their local public schools on their own, primarily through property tax increases.
PA’s excessive reliance on local wealth to fund schools has led to PA having the most inequitable school funding system in the nation, where the state’s wealthiest school districts spend 33% more on each student than its poorest school districts.
Our public schools are where PA’s children gain the knowledge and skills they need to pursue their dreams after graduation and, ultimately, get decent jobs with good pay so that they can build a strong and vibrant economy in the Commonwealth.
It is wrong that our state’s inadequate and inequitable school funding system guarantees that hundreds of thousands of students will attend schools that don’t have basic, necessary resources to give students a shot at a quality education and enable our communities to build a bright future.