Monday, August 31, 2015

Pennsylvania Budget Impasse Beginning To Impact Education.

The Philadelphia Inquirer (8/31, Boccella) reports that as a budget agreement continues to elude state leaders in Pennsylvania, local schools and programs are beginning to be affected. The article reports that education leaders say the problem is going to get worse, and notes that administrators are “dipping into reserve funds, putting freezes on new hires, and starting to ponder their next moves if the gridlock continues into the fall.” The paper explains that Gov. Tom Wolf “wants the legislature to give him an additional $400 million in education funding next year,” but Republicans are balking at his plan to raise taxes. Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials last week “mourned what it called Red Thursday, the day that roughly $1 billion in the first large installment of basic state education aid normally would have been delivered.” The Inquirer quotes PASBO Executive Director Jay Himes saying, “Unfortunately it’s a guessing game because there’s no way to predict when” the impasse will end. “People are getting more and more worried whether they will have adequate recourse to open schools and keep them open,” Himes said.

Cash-Strapped District Says No Money For Paychecks. The AP (8/31) reports that the state’s chronically struggling Chester Upland School District “says it cannot afford to pay its staff amid an entrenched state budget stalemate,” with neither district nor state officials offering any answers. The piece notes that teachers, bus drivers, secretaries, and other workers have voted to work even if the district can’t make its scheduled payroll.
        Under the headline “In A Bankrupt Pa. School District, Teachers Plan To Work For Free,” the Washington Post (8/28, Layton) reports that employees in the district “don’t expect to get paid,” but will show up for work anyway. Local teachers and allied workers “voted unanimously to work without pay as the new school year opens.”
        Districts Scrambling, Borrowing To Cover Gap. The Hazelton (PA) Standard Speaker (8/31) reports that state districts were expecting “millions” from the state last Thursday, but “received nothing, and instead are borrowing money and depleting reserves to make payroll and pay for utilities.” The piece quotes Carbondale Area School District business manager David Cerra saying, “It has been absolutely devastating. We have no visibility going forward to when it will be resolved.” The Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials says that half of the state’s districts “have or are considering borrowing money.”
        The Johnstown (PA) Tribune-Democrat (8/31) chronicles the steps taken surrounding the budget impasse by Wolf and Republican lawmakers in recent weeks, noting that a recent Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials survey found that “almost 6 out of 7 survey respondents are using fund balances or may use them to cover the lack of state subsidy payments. Half said they have borrowed or are considering borrowing.”
        Budget Debacle Complicates Teacher Contract Negotiations. The Scranton (PA) Times Tribune (8/31) reports that “area teachers’ contracts are taking longer to negotiate” than usual because of the budget standoff, suggesting that some districts’ teachers may follow the example of those in Scranton, who “plan to strike this week.” Several districts have contracts that are either set to expire soon or have already done so.
        Advocates: Early Education Providers Under Siege. The Delaware County (PA) Daily Times (8/29) reports that advocates for early childhood education say that “Harrisburg’s inability to adopt a budget on time is having an extreme impact on day care and pre-kindergarten providers and creating uncertainty for their employees and the families they serve.” Educators held a press conference “calling on Gov. Tom Wolf and the Legislature to agree on a budget — one which includes Wolf’s proposal for enough funding to add 14,000 more toddlers to Pennsylvania’s pre-K roles.” The West Chester (PA) Daily Local News (8/29) also covers this story.

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