By Peter L. DeCoursey
HARRISBURG (April 3) – Rep. Sheryl Delozier, R-Cumberland, told constituents the House and Senate are pushing to restore $100 million in K-12 public education block grants as part of an overall effort “to keep the level of funding where it is this year.”
Delozier spoke at the New Cumberland Republican Women’s breakfast, and was asked a question about how to help the West Shore School District overcome its funding shortfall.
“We’ve pretty much agreed in the House [Republican caucus] with the leaders and the members, and I believe with the Senate, is to level-fund education, give it the same as it got this year,” she said. “Either bring back the block grants, the $100 million, the same as we did this year, or perhaps award that money on a population basis rather than give everyone the same they got last year.”
On the block grants, “We will work to see that school districts that received the dollars this year, will get them again.”
Asked about that comment, Delozier said that while House leaders have ducked this topic and declined to say they will push to restore the $100 million in block grant funding school districts received to spend this year, “It is pretty clear that is a priority.”
In former Gov. Ed Rendell’s final budget, the block grants got $250 million, which many districts used to fund full-day Kindergarten. Gov. Tom Corbett’s first budget eliminated that line item. Legislative leaders got $100 million for that item this year, but Corbett insisted it be added to last year’s budget, even though the $100 million was spent in the current budget by school districts.
So school districts and some lawmakers say it was not eliminated, while Corbett and his staff say it was eliminated. Until Delozier’s comment, it was not clear that GOP leaders intended to prioritize its restoration in the forthcoming budget.
She also said, “And we have to work to end ‘hold harmless’ provisions which give every school district what they got last year, because that helps school districts whose populations are sinking and hurts those whose populations are increasing.”
Other members confirmed that House GOP leaders have made that commitment to the caucus if, as expected, revenues come in about $200 million higher than predicted.
But leaders and spokesmen say they have made no such commitments, and that budget negotiations will resolve that and other issues.
Delozier said education and school board groups “are still saying they want last year’s cuts back. There isn’t enough money to do that. But it looks like there will be enough to keep the funding the same as it is this year. And I think it is clear we will do that.”