New Report Shows Budget Cuts Have Hurt PA Schools

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Education funding a “must-have” for PA’s children

PHILADELPHIA (April 30, 2014) - This morning, the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center (PBPC) released a report titled, "A Strong State Commitment to Public Education: A “Must-Have” for Pennsylvania’s Children," which outlines the harms that have come from the failure to adequately fund Pennsylvania schools, examines the policy choices that led to this crisis, and makes the case for greater and more equitable investment. The report focuses on the impact of funding cuts on the School District of Philadelphia and other low-income districts. The release comes just hours before several Democratic gubernatorial candidates gather for a forum on education.

Sharon Ward, PBPC's director, noted, "Without a strong and fully funded public school system, Pennsylvania will simply be unable to meet the challenges of a 21st century economy. That's why Pennsylvanians are looking toward Harrisburg. The state has tried austerity, which has only damaged children's prospects, furthered inequality, increased local taxes and slowed the economic recovery.”

Susan Gobreski, executive director of Education Voters of Pennsylvania said, "Pennsylvania is going in the wrong direction for all districts and these policies are especially hurting poorer districts. Districts where 50% of students who qualified for reduced price lunch have taken eight times the hit as districts where fewer than 25% of the students qualified for reduced price lunch. The bottom line is that state education funding cuts have disproportionately hurt poor school districts. That's not just wrong. It's unconscionable."

Darren Spielman, president and CEO of the Philadelphia Education Fund said, "It’s about choices. We know what works. Pennsylvania should return to a school funding formula that makes sense and achieves results. While the members of the General Assembly have indicated a renewed interest in a funding formula, it is also necessary to provide the resources necessary for students to achieve success.”

Marjorie Neff, Principal of J.R. Masterman School in Philadelphia added “Every minute we spend planning how to cope with insufficient funding is time we aren't spending with teachers, planning instruction, or working directly with kids - the things that move us forward. If you give us the resources to put the essentials in place, we will get better outcomes.”

Some facts highlighted in the report:

· The scale of recent funding cuts in Philadelphia and other low-income districts has been unprecedented. Since 2011 Philadelphia has experienced a $294 million drop in state school funding.

· Philadelphia educates 12 percent of Pennsylvania’s school students but experienced 35 percent of statewide school funding cuts enacted in 2011.

· Even counting the increase in funding proposed by Governor Corbett for next year, which is by no means a certainty, 54 percent of per student cuts to classroom programs will remain four years after they were enacted.

· Between 2010 and 2012 Pennsylvania lost 20,000 jobs in the education sector, including teachers, administrators and classroom aides. The equivalent of 40 manufacturing plants closing in just two years.

· Corporate tax cuts enacted during the last decade have contributed to the underfunding. At a cost of $3 billion annually, the cuts are almost one-third of the entire prek-12 education budget.

“This evening, the Democratic candidates for governor will be in Philadelphia to discuss public education. We hope that debate will acknowledge depth of the education funding crisis and that all the candidates, those that are in the room this evening and those that are not, will remember that education is a must have, not a nice to have, for Pennsylvania in the 21st century,” concluded Ward.