Monday, October 26, 2015

Gridlock Over Pennsylvania’s Budget Threatens Schools.

Reuters (10/22, Russ) reports that the political gridlock over Pennsylvania’s 2016 budget, which is now 113 days overdue, poses a severe threat to the institutions and services which rely most heavily on state support. The current deadlock is reportedly partly due to a lack of consensus over how to pay for increased education funding, and it is the school system that is among the most effected by the lack of resolution. Although some school districts have described their financial system as “desperate,” state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale remarked that, “we don’t see any settlement any time soon” and confirmed that some less districts that are more reliant on the state will be “getting close to a breaking point” by mid-November if funds are not dispersed.
        The Philadelphia Inquirer (10/22, Boccella, Nussbaum) expands coverage of the budget impasse with a 1,004-word examination of the hardships school districts across the state are facing and reports that, in reaction to Governor Tom Wolf’s statements this week that he would not advance money to school districts in need, many are considering lines of credit and other measures to cover expenses in the meantime. In an effort to provide assistance, the Wolf administration reportedly stated that it would help districts obtain low-interest loans and would work to include plans for reimbursement of interest and fee payments incurred as part of the final budget agreement. In the words of Jeff Sheridan, a Wolf spokesman, “the administration will continue to work with districts to mitigate the effects of the impasse and will continue working toward a final agreement on a budget.”
        The AP (10/22) reports that Philadelphia is among the school districts considering borrowing money due to the budget impasse. However, emphasizing the severity of the situation, Superintendent William Hite Jr. has stated that, even with a loan, Philadelphia’s schools could not remain open if a budget is not passed by the end of the year.
        The Philadelphia Inquirer (10/22, Graham) provides further coverage of the effects of the Philadelphia school districts weak financial position, and reports that the School Reform Commission will meet to authorize temporary borrowing, yet gave no estimate regarding how much the district will take. However, while borrowing may provide a stopgap measure to continue operating, SRC Commissioner Feather Houstoun expressed her concern that any cuts that the school district makes “come right out of the classroom.” Furthermore, the Inquirer reportedly that the Philadelphia school district has been unable to fill teaching vacancies and also lacks sufficient nursing services. Officials did, however, announce on Wednesday that the district was no longer considering plans to outsource nursing services.

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