State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Schools' reserves raise ire, advocates defend savings

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Aug 7, 2014 8:50 PM
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Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Not everyone thinks schools in Pennsylvania are hurting for money.

For years, Republican lawmakers and officials have insisted that school districts have more money than they're letting on - in the form of rainy day funds. According to the state Department of Education, school districts reported having $4.27 billion leftover in their fund balances as of the 2012-13 fiscal year.

"In a three-year period... including the 2012-13 year, the fund balances have increased by $718 million, almost three-quarters of a billion dollars, in a period everyone's saying that the governor cut school funding," Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York) said earlier this month. He is among lawmakers who have called on school districts to stop building up their financial cushion.

Education advocates bridle at the charge that schools are hoarding money unnecessarily. They point to general fiscal uncertainty, rising pension costs, and the years-long delays in state payments for school construction projects.

But Joe Bard, head of the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools, said if some districts are able to set aside oodles funding while others teeter towards deficits, it points to a larger problem with the way the state divvies up funding.

"To think otherwise would mean that all of these school boards are just hanging onto money for no particular reason," Bard said.

A state commission to study education funding convened for the first time last month. Its recommendations for driving out funding to school districts are due to the legislature next summer.

Published in State House Sound Bites

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Comments: 1

  • Bill img 2014-09-02 22:00

    Schools in Pennsylvania are not really hurting for money since they spend whatever they acquire on non-educational enterprises. The item lacking is true accountability. The politicians who generally support schools are also those who constantly modify and adjust reporting demands as well as modify the requirement for Certification in an array of fields. Our schools are overstaffed with various people who are supported by these same politicians. As an example, a school district can multiply their funding level by rating a huge percentage of students as Special Education. Within our district I questioned why their were 31 % listed as Special Education and over four years this number dropped to less than 18%. We are on the rise once again ! A normal school district during the 1970-1990 time slot fit in at around 5-6% Special Education.

    Schools are hoarding dollars because Section 54 provides the finance manager with four choices which each board need only support. Our district went from hoarding around 1 M to over 6 M over these past few years because they could !

    Joe Bard comments that under the system as set up presently, that the fox has control of the hen house and that conserving dollars is nonsense since the political figures are " me " people concerned only for their political careers - why we need them with a political career is beyond my comprehension.

    The State Commission who is going to study educational funding has convened during July 2014 according to this article. Who guards the hen house while this select committee muddles, while Rome burns and the political entities become experts while the student population crashes, as taxes rise because of those odd agreements footed by PSBA, as the legislators try to establish their separate retirement benefits, while continuing their union support as they all agree to raise local taxes to meet the uniform level desired as long as their is no oversight.

    How revolting and corrupt Society can be as inverse taxation to fund this next tax agreement is agreed upon by all of the select "me's" who design this mess. Understand this, that their shall not be any reassessment of taxation on an equitable scale, that is, as income increases, taxes increase. Never shall
    rationale factors enter the picture

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