PSEA President: block grant plan will shortchange students and schools
(HARRISBURG, April 30, 2012) – Gov. Tom Corbett’s plan to fund Pennsylvania’s public schools with “block grants” will shortchange students, let political deals drive state funding, and force local school districts and communities to solve the $1 billion crisis that state funding cuts have caused, according to the president of Pennsylvania’s largest school employee union.
Michael Crossey, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, warned that block grants will end up shortchanging school districts, since block grants would erase the laws and formulas that account for schools’ real costs and students’ real needs. Instead, block grants would base state funding on arbitrary numbers and political backroom deals.
“The governor’s plan to ‘block grant’ public school funding is just another way to pass the buck on the school funding crisis,” Crossey said. “It’s a dramatic reversal, a 180-degree turn away from a fair and predictable system. Instead of solving the crisis in our schools, these block grants will make it worse.”
Gov. Corbett’s block grant proposal would create a single line item in the FY 2012-13 state budget by lumping together line items for employee Social Security payments, school busing, non-public school busing, and classroom instruction. Social Security payments are mandated, and busing is necessary to keep students safe and attending school regularly.
Most significantly, the governor’s proposal, if approved by the General Assembly, would set the stage for political backroom deals on how much to give public schools in future state budgets, Crossey said. State funding for classroom instruction was cut by $860 million in the FY 2011-12 budget.
“The governor’s block grant proposal would combine four programs that work into one that doesn’t,” Crossey added. “It’s another part of the shell game he is playing with his budget. Fair and equitable funding will go out the window, and political deals will decide how much we invest in our students.”
Combining these payments makes it appear as though the Corbett administration has increased school funding, even though the governor’s budget proposal contains another $100 million in state funding cuts.
"The governor claims his plan gives schools more flexibility, but all it offers is the flexibility to make even more cuts that harm students,” Crossey said.
Crossey pointed out that the need to restore state funding cuts to the public schools is urgent. “Sounding The Alarm,” a PSEA research report, shows that a combination of nearly $1 billion in cuts and a toxic mixture of bad state education laws is forcing dramatic cuts to student programs and pushing a growing number of school districts to the financial brink.
“The school funding crisis is real, and it’s hurting Pennsylvania’s students every day,” Crossey said. “Shell games and accounting tricks won’t solve it. We need to fund the schools, stop these cuts, and invest in Pennsylvania’s students.”
Crossey is a special education teacher in the Keystone Oaks School District. An affiliate of the National Education Association, PSEA represents approximately 187,000 future, active and retired teachers and school employees, and health care workers in Pennsylvania.