Governors Budget and General McLane
Last week the Governor unveiled his proposed budget for 2013-2014. While I know that the budget will go through many changes in the legislature, I wanted to share the highlights of the proposal and what it would mean for General McLane.
After two years of deep cuts to education, the Governor has proposed an increase for education. Most of the increase is for programs the state is conducting and does not reach down to the districts. As a reminder, education is constitutionally the responsibility of the states. In Pennsylvania, the state partners with local boards to meet that obligation. The state is to fund approximately half the cost but that share varies widely throughout the state as a formula is used to help districts with weak tax bases. In our district, the state is to fund about 54% of instructional costs. There are a number of avenues which are used to fund school districts and I will discuss those and how the proposed budget treats them.
Special education funding from the state is to help in the costs incurred for special needs students that are over and above the cost of educating a child in regular education. This area requires strict compliance to a host of Federal and state laws. For the past five years, special education has been level funded by the state. There will be no increase in the coming year either. Our special needs population continues to grow as do our expenses. Six years of no increase becomes more of a challenge each year.
Career and Technical education is another area level-funded by the state. These funds would be used to support the Erie County Technical School which is funded and run by nine participating school districts. As with most organizations, costs increase there so the increases will be picked up through local funds.
Another fund the state is holding at the same level as last year is known as the “Accountability Block Grant.” It is a pot of money school districts may use in a variety of ways. We have used it to fund basic instruction and the amount we have received and will continue to receive is $132,000, a very small piece of a 28 million dollar budget.
The Governor’s proposal also holds level money for school construction projects. This does not affect us in any way as we have no major construction projects currently underway or planned.
So those are areas with no proposed increases. An area that the governor has increased is Pre-K Counts. This is an early childhood program for children before they enter kindergarten. We do not currently operate a Pre-K program so the 5% increase by the state has no effect on us. The only proposed increase that will be of some help is the increase in Basic Instruction Subsidy. This is the bulk of dollars that come from the state. The modest 1.7% increase means an additional $118,000 for our district. As a point of reference, our increases in salaries alone next year is approximately $500,000 so you can see that the increases in our budget next year will have to be covered mostly by local dollars.
There is money in the Governor’s proposal for creating more tests for students to take. He has proposed a 7.2% increase in this area to provide $56 million in funds to create Keystone Exams and new PSSAs to assess the Common Core Standards. There is also a proposed 9.3 million to develop evaluation instruments for assessing teachers and principals. Also, new funding will provide $775,000 to establish a dedicated division in the department of education to prosecute misconduct by professional educators.
So the bottom line is that the governor’s proposed budget will mean $118,000.00 more for General McLane; however, we may lose that. The Governor has stated that if the legislature does not accept his proposal to reform the pension system, he will make cuts to education.
The governor has proposed that the proceeds from the sale of liquor stores go to public education. That would have no bearing on our operating budget and what I’ve outlined above. Next week, we will take a look at that proposal in greater detail.
The Lancer Letter is a weekly editorial by Richard Scaletta, Superintendent of Schools, General McLane School District. Opinions expressed are Mr. Scaletta’s views on the issues and subjects of discussion.