Pennsylvania still has no budget
Pennsylvania State Representative James Santora, (R-163) has announced a bill he hopes will release funds to area school districts, that due to the budget impasse, do not have enough funds to continue operating. Santora has prepared House Bill number 1821 that would release funds to school district. The act proposes, “Making a supplemental appropriation from the General Fund to the Department of Education for the purpose of payment of basic education funding to school districts for the fiscal year July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016.” Making a supplemental appropriation from the General Fund to the Department of Education for the purpose of payment of basic education funding to school districts for the fiscal year July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016.”
According to Representative Santora that closing schools is not necessary as the funds are available in the treasury if the Governor would sign a budget or even a stopgap budget for the Commonwealth’s children. On the other hand, Democrats point out that the Republicans have turned away budget proposals from the Governor and the Democrats who represent residents in the Pennsylvania House and Senate. Santora responds that, “the budget that the General Assembly sent to the governor’s desk on Dec. 24, included a historic level of state aid for schools; however, the governor vetoed several education line items, including half of the Basic Education Funding allocation schools would receive for 2015-16. As a result, schools received only six months of funding, even though all of the state funding needed for schools is currently available in the state Treasury.”
Governor Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan repeated that the Governor does not want school districts to close but they have to be ready in case they do. That is why the Commonwealth has come up with actual plans in how to close a district. But he added the governor had his Department of Education prepare this memo in response to inquiries from school districts. Sheridan also laid the problem at the feet of previous Governor Corbett who have had to recover from inadequate education funding decisions made during that administration.
Senate Republican spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher said in a statement that “There would be no crisis and this memo would not be needed if the administration had not used his veto to cut more than $3.1 billion from that education budget.” House Democratic spokesman Bill Patton stated that “the Legislature still hasn’t finished its job of passing an honest budget and the clock’s ticking.”
Patton continued and stated that “If we don’t begin to responsibly restore the education cuts made in the prior administration, a number of school districts will have to consider drastic action up to and including cutting this school year short. Not all districts would have to take this step but some will, particularly if they can no longer obtain loans from private lenders.” In the meantime, residents and students in the Commonwealth are left to sit on the sidelines hoping that both parties will act responsibly and put the best interest of constituents first. As Representative Santora said the closing of school districts that “the governor has it within his power to ensure that schools are funded and stay open.”