Home > Cenntenial School District, Hatboro-Horsham School District, Lower Moreland, upper moreland school district > Local Schools Faced with Major Cuts Due to Gov. Corbett’s Proposed Budget

Local Schools Faced with Major Cuts Due to Gov. Corbett’s Proposed Budget

By Jesse Reilly
The Public Spirit

With the state facing a $4 billion deficit, state Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-12, said this year will be the year to make some tough decisions.

“This is going to be a very hard year for us,” he said Wednesday from Harrisburg. “I can’t think of any time we’ve been faced with a larger debt. Obviously we have to deal with issues that are very difficult; we’re going to have to ask a lot of hard questions.”

Greenleaf’s sentiments came just a day after Gov. Tom Corbett unveiled his spending plan for 2011-12. His proposed budget cuts spending by about 3 percent and does not call for any new taxes.

What it does call for is the elimination of more than 1,000 state jobs, cutting higher education funding by more than 50 percent and decreasing education funding by $550 million statewide, data compiled by the state House Appropriations Committee states.

The $550 million in cuts could come in the form of cuts to state grants and reimbursements school districts receive from charter schools.

Cuts could also manifest themselves in the form of basic education funding and cuts to a district’s Social Security reimbursement.

Hatboro-Horsham is set to see a $400,000 cut to basic education funding. Lower Moreland will see $195,000 less and Upper Moreland can expect a decrease of just more than $300,000.

Social Security cuts could translate into a $453,000 cut for Hatboro-Horsham, $282,000 for Upper Moreland and $276,000 for Lower Moreland, said Michael Braun, business manager for the Upper Moreland School District.

The Upper Dublin School District will see a $648,000 decrease due to Social Security and North Penn could lose $2 million. Wissahickon could expect a $588,000 decrease and Springfield could lose $341,000.

“My concern is for the students,” Braun said. “I can’t imagine what this is going to do to education. We’re really taking away from students.”

To balance his budget Braun said he will need to cut more than $1 million and, he says, the district is not alone.

“Although the numbers are different for each school district, this is affecting everyone,” he said.

Faced with the lack of funding, Braun said school districts could look at increasing class sizes, cuts to programming and discontinuing higher-level education courses such as Advanced Placement classes.

Although he was anticipating cuts, state Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-171, called the education decreases “massive” and “shocking.” In terms of scope, Boyle said the cuts are nearly 10 percent of the entire K-12 budget.

Balancing a budget will be especially difficult for school districts this year, state Rep. Tom Murt, R-152, said, because the stimulus funds, which translated into $654 million in funding for the state last year, have run out.

“That is creating a gaping hole,” the representative said. “We absolutely have to make cuts in our state budget but we have to look very hard at the cuts we are making.”

Higher education will, if the proposed decreases manifest, see a cut of more than $600 million.

“The part that is most sickening to me is that if we were to have a Marcellus Shale tax, like every other natural gas producing state in the country, it alone would be able to make up all the cuts to higher education,” Boyle said. “When the governor says we don’t have the money it’s really misleading, he’s choosing to go down a certain path.”

Both Murt and Greenleaf said they would support a Marcellus Shale tax.

Pennsylvania colleges and universities are, Boyle continued, already among the most expensive state-run schools in the country.

“This is very short-sighted,” he said. “The states that are growing economically are the ones that are making education a priority.”

In an attempt to shift more funding back to education Murt said the first place the state should look is the Department of Public Welfare, which is set to see an increase this year. The representative continued by saying the department has been investigated by the auditor general’s office for wasteful spending and fraud.

Next week will begin a three-week-long hearing process where the House and Senate’s appropriations committees review the budget, the governor’s proposal and question the heads of state departments about their budgets.

“They used to be able to say they needed more money and we could give it to them,” Greenleaf, who is a member of the Senate’s appropriations committee, said. “We can’t do that this year; they have to prove that they need that money.”

Although he’s not a member of the committee, Murt said he plans on testifying against the cuts to the public and higher education.

“If higher education is cut, tuition is going to increase and the cost of college will become more expensive or out of reach for residents in the district,” he said. “Many middle class families will no longer be able to afford going to a state school.”

A major proponent for the special needs community, Murt said he would also be testifying for the need to maintain services for adults with special needs. Currently it does not look like that line item will see a decrease.

Once the hearings have concluded, the negotiating begins.

“That’s when we try to work out our differences and our priorities, it’s a process of give and take,” Greenleaf said. “This is just the beginning.”

Republished with the permission of The Public Spirit/Globe Times Chronicle

Related Content:

Full Text of Govenor Corbett’s Budget Address

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