Citing the withholding of state and federal school funding “illegal” and “unconstitutional,” the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) is suing Governor Tom Wolf and the state legislature, calling for courts to weigh in and force the state to pass through federal funds.
As a result of the six month budget impasse, many school districts were forced to dig deeply into limited reserves in order keep their doors open. Districts across the state will owe more than $1 billion plus interest collectively, which the PSBA calls for the state government to reimburse.
“Making sure that we continue to maintain an excellent education system for all public school children is an essential service,” says Nathan Mains, PBSA Executive Director.
Last week, Governor Wolf authorized approximately $7 billion in retroactive funding going back to July 1, but Mains says there is still controversy regarding how these funds will be released, and challenges the state government to do more.
“We’re looking for more of a concrete, long-term direction. We don’t want to see those funds stop tomorrow, and certainly my understanding is that it could happen.”
While Mains sees this as a critical issue raising several legal questions, he recognizes that establishing a concrete plan will not happen overnight.
“You’d be hard-pressed to find anybody that would say that they don’t want a strong public education system in Pennsylvania that is among the best in the nation.”
Although Mains believes Gov. Wolf bears some of the responsibility in solving this budget crisis, he says that there is plenty of blame to go around. Ultimately, he says the issue will be solved when all parties collectively put their heads together.
Mains is hopeful the courts will intervene so that even if budgets are delayed in the future, there is a plan in order to ensure schools receive the funding they need.
“We are very confident that there will be a meaningful discussion and that the outcome will be in our favor at the end of the day.”
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