Pottstown Mercury: Editorial: State Budget Impasse Hurts Poor Schools Most

Two months past the deadline for a state budget, and little has changed since the July 1 start of a new fiscal year. Gov. Tom Wolf and the Legislature are no closer to resolution than they were at the start of summer.

What has changed is that children are heading back to school with no money from the state to support education.

In most districts, the shortfall isn’t missed in August because property tax payments are coming in, insuring good cash flow in school districts even without state subsidies. But that scenario of relying solely on local tax income emphasizes the inequities in Pennsylvania public education.

“The state’s delay in passing a budget only aggravates the current education inequities in Pennsylvania.” said Charlie Lyons, spokesman for the Campaign for Fair Education Funding in a press release. “It is the students with the greatest needs that are most affected by the failure to pass a budget, since the schools facing the most challenges rely more on state dollars and have fewer local revenues to fill the gaps.”

A recent survey conducted by the PA Association of School Business Officials (PASBO) showed that a majority of survey respondents — 83 percent — are using fund balances to cover the lack of state subsidy payments, while half of survey respondents said they have borrowed or are considering borrowing to avoid any cash flow difficulties, the coalition of school equity reform organizations noted.

And at a press conference last Friday in Upper Providence, area school officials joined child care and Pre-K education providers to plead for an end to the impasse, saying that without state funding, their classrooms are in jeopardy of closing.

“We have this beautiful new classroom to educate our children, but without additional state funding, it will sit empty,” said Melanie Godhania, program director for Play and Learn, which hosted the press conference.

“Pre-K counts is just as important as public education,” said Spring-Ford Area School District Superintendent David Goodin. He noted that while many view Spring-Ford as an affluent school district, there are 313 children who quality for Pre-K Counts, which relies on state funding.

“We can’t wait much longer,” said Erinn Rinn, community relations director for Today’s Child Learning Center, which, with 15 centers across Delaware County, is Delaware County’s largest early child care provider.

Rinn’s organization had to take out a $138,000 bridge loan to keep the centers operating while the budget impasse drags on in Harrisburg. “But bridge financing will run out in October. In a real sense, the clock is ticking.”

The last time a budget impasse created a cash flow problem, the delay of opening school meant families who counted on the child care centers lost their jobs to stay home with their children, said Christine Fox of Warwick Child Care Centers in Chester County.

Like the delay in subsidies to public schools, the lack of state funding for Pre-K programs affects poor districts most.

Read the full article here.