Sentinel View: Reservations About School Reserves

Posted (Carlisle Sentinel):  Sunday, May 20, 2012

We’re tired of politicians advising us to patch gaping holes wth Band-aids, especially when that advice comes from the man who made those holes.

Gov. Tom Corbett took another shot at education this week during a radio interview in Philadelphia, saying public schools should dip into their reserve funds to deal with ongoing budget deficits.

A simple fix, right?

Doesn’t seem that way, especially coming from a man who criticized schools for spending too freely with federal stimulus dollars that disappeared, helping spark some of this school budget mess.

Reserve funds could patch some of our area school district’s problems this budget season, and in the case of Carlisle Area School District, they are. The CASD board approved a preliminary budget Thursday night that draws on $500,000 from its reserve fund to help keep a tax increase at 0.9 percent.

And according to statistics provided by the Associated Press, more than 70 percent of school diistricts in the state have dipped into their reserve funds this budget season.

But this is only a temporary fix. That $500,000 won’t exist next year for CASD unless it dips further into the “savings account.” And eventually, that account will run dry.

Meanwhile the problems keep coming for school districts. Corbett’s proposed state budget this year keeps education funding flat, but it eliminates a $100 million grant that helps underwrite full-day kindergarten.

This comes at a time when troubled school districts in Harrisburg and York are considering eliminating kindergarten programs, a crushing blow for education and our children’s future.

So it gets tiring to hear Gov. Corbett issue public challenges to the school districts in his fight to defend two straight years of limiting education funding in his state budget. Reserve funds aren’t the answer to an ongoing problem, one that will be exacerbated by the cost of pension obligations that will increase steeply over the coming years.

This isn’t all Gov. Corbett’s fault. He’s just the guy wth the ax chopping away at a state budget that faced a steep deficit, the same situation school districts in this state face.

But it would be more comforting to us to know the governor and the school districts were on the same page and working together to invest in the future of our children with our tax dollars.

And while Band-aids ease a problem in the moment, they don’t protect us forever.

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