One teacher’s view on the school funding debate: An interview with North Penn School District elementary school music teacher and the President-Elect of PSEA, Mideastern Region, Alan Malachowski.
Q: Is the current budget proposal fair and reasonable?
A: Lawmakers need to realize that there is a school funding crisis in Pennsylvania and our students are feeling the impact. In March, Gov. Wolf made the decision to allow the 2015-16 supplemental state budget that the General Assembly passed to become law.
The budget provides a $150 million increase in basic education funding, a $50 million increase in Ready to Learn Block Grants, and a $30 million increase in special education funding. Gov. Wolf had proposed increases of $400 million in basic education funding and $100 million in special education funding.
Q: How will the new budget affect our public schools?
A: The Commonwealth is facing a $2 billion deficit and if lawmakers don’t come to terms with that reality, and try to solve the problem, public school funding will likely be cut by as much as $1 billion next year.
Q: How would CAPS change this budget proposal if it could?
A: In 2011, Governor Corbett reduced school funding by $1 billion. This resulted in nearly 80 percent of school districts eliminating or reducing 1,153 programs, which impacted over 800,000 students. There was also a 64 percent increase in class size and the loss of nearly 27,000 education jobs. Are we going to let this happen again? We need a budget proposal that generates revenue and fully funds our schools.
Q: Does this new budget help or hinder with implementation of the ESSA?
A: It’s not clear yet how this figures into the ESSA, but let’s look at some numbers. Pennsylvania ranks in 50th place nationally for school funding and 45th in state support for public education. The legislature isn’t doing its job funding public schools in the Commonwealth and instead is pushing that responsibility onto the local school districts and taxpayers which isn’t fair. The lawmakers need to embrace their fundamental responsibility to support the education needs of the children of Pennsylvania.