(HARRISBURG, May 22, 2012) – A proposal backed by Gov. Tom Corbett to place Harrisburg bureaucrats in control of financially distressed districts will do nothing to address the financial situations facing these districts, according to the president of Pennsylvania’s largest school employee union.
Mike Crossey, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, said that as implications of Gov. Corbett’s budget cuts continue to grow, along with the number of financially distressed school districts, legislators should be seeking real solutions for these struggling school districts and properly funding them.
He urged legislators to vote “no” on House Bill 1307, which now includes Gov. Corbett’s distressed school district proposal. The bill is expected to be voted out of the Senate Education Committee today.
“There is a serious funding crisis in a growing number of our schools,” Crossey said. “But this bill isn’t a solution. The problem was manufactured largely by state underfunding in the first place. This bill is a bureaucratic power grab masquerading as a fix, and it leaves these struggling schools guessing about how to balance their budgets and educate their students.”
Crossey pointed out that nearly $1 billion in state funding cuts have contributed significantly to the funding crisis in Pennsylvania’s schools. Across the state, the crisis is growing worse, as school districts deplete their reserve funds and continue to cut staff and programs that work for their students.
“If their state funding hadn’t been cut, these school districts wouldn’t be in crisis,” Crossey added. “Restoring these funding cuts is the solution. Putting state bureaucrats in charge isn’t.”
Initially, the distressed school district proposal would target the Chester Upland, Duquesne City, Harrisburg, and York City School Districts. However, in future years, the State Board of Education would be left with sole discretion to determine which districts are financially distressed. In these districts, state-appointed bureaucrats would be required to fashion response plans, and a state receiver could be put in place to run the districts if their budget crises continue. The bill would also allow these officials to cancel contracts, convert community schools into charter schools, and attack school employees’ collective bargaining rights.
“Some of our school districts are in financial crisis, and we need to find real solutions,” Crossey said. “This bill wouldn’t do anything to solve their problems. It would take away local decision-making and give local parents and taxpayers no voice in how to run their schools.”
Crossey pointed out that the need to restore state funding cuts to the public schools is urgent. “Sounding the Alarm,” a PSEA research report, points out that the financial viability of a significant number of school districts will be threatened by 2014. It 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.
“In the next few weeks, legislators have an opportunity to address the school funding crisis,” Crossey said. “The way to do it is to craft a budget that invests in our students. We are looking forward to working with legislators to do just that.”
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.