school funding

An annual commonwealth tradition may take a backseat to state budget negotiations.

Every December, the state’s top politicians head to New York City to see and be seen at a long weekend of fundraisers, parties and one swanky gala collectively referred to as Pennsylvania Society. But some are already talking about skipping the trip if the state doesn’t have a budget by the date of the main event on December 12.

Matt Rourke / AP File Photo

Pennsylvania schools have borrowed at least $431 million since the state’s budget impasse began in July.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said his office has now heard from more than half of the state’s school districts in an effort to track the fiscal effects of the state’s budget stalemate.

“It’s bad now, but we go from bad to borderline disastrous if something isn’t done by Thanksgiving,” DePasquale said.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Pennsylvania school districts whose communities are similar economically are supposed to receive about the same amount of money per student from the state.

But officials have long complained that isn't happening.

A panel tasked with creating a fairer way of doling out state funding to school districts in Pennsylvania is expected to wrap up its work in early June, just weeks before the state budget deadline, when lawmakers expect a crush of issues to crowd the negotiation table.

For the past year, the Basic Education Funding Commission has spent the past year studying funding methods and developing its suggestions for funding Pennsylvania education — a system with the largest gap between rich and poor school districts of any state in the country.

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

A Pennsylvania court says a legal challenge to the state's system of funding public schools involves political questions that don't belong in the courts.

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Governor Tom Wolf releases his state budget proposal Tuesday, and the Campaign for Fair Education Funding has a few suggestions.

Several Education watchdog groups unveiled the plan Thursday.  

“The mission of the campaign is really to focus on this need for an equitable system of funding in Pennsylvania that has enough resources in it to be sure every child has an equal chance to meet our standards,” Joan Benso, PA Partnerships for Children president and CEO, said. Benso's group is just one of several organizations working on the campaign.

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  Pennsylvania schools are being forced to make cuts to programming and staff in order to keep up with mandated costs and lack of funding.

That’s according to the Pennsylvania Associations of School Administrators (PASA) and of School Business Officials (PASBO) which released their fourth annual Survey on School District Budgets.

Prospects for legislation to devise a new schools funding formula have gotten a bit brighter.

Gov. Tom Corbett recently criticized the current method of divvying up state aid, which happens during budget negotiations among state lawmakers.

"It’s not fair right now. OK? So we need to address that," Corbett said. "So I’m looking forward to seeing that bill pass in the Senate. I’m looking forward to that commission, and then let’s go to a true funding system."

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale recently audited two struggling Allegheny County school districts and said the findings point to a larger problem in the commonwealth: a lack of funding and ineffective charter school laws.

DePasquale said Duquesne City School District is over the cliff financially and the Sto-Rox School District is teetering on the edge.

Swapping school property taxes for increased sales and income taxes could be the solution for the decades-long battle over how to fund basic education in Pennsylvania.

A bipartisan coalition of state lawmakers unveiled the latest version of the Property Tax Independence Act on Tuesday.