HARRISBURG (June 5, 2014) – The fourth annual survey of school district budgets conducted by the PA Association of School Administrators (PASA) and the PA Association of School Business Officials (PASBO) shows, for the fourth consecutive year, cuts both inside and outside the classroom await students, teachers and parents as schools open their doors in the new school year. The survey shows that the cumulative effect of stagnant revenues caused by the lackluster economy, reduced levels of state and federal contributions to total school costs and dramatically rising pension and other mandated costs have led to the unprecedented reductions in programs and school staff.
“Unfortunately, this year’s survey results show that the landscape has not changed and the financial condition of school districts across the Commonwealth continues to deteriorate,” said Jim Buckheit, executive director of PASA. “These financial challenges continue to create significant obstacles in maintaining the high-quality educational programs provided to students.”
The survey results show that nearly 60% of school districts have furloughed staff since 2010-11, with more than 40% of these furloughs affecting classroom teachers. In addition, seven in ten districts have not filled positions vacated by retirements and resignations. More than a quarter of school districts responding have implemented hiring freezes.
With about one in seven districts planning furloughs of classroom teachers for next year, fewer teachers continues to mean increasing class sizes, which has occurred in 64% of responding districts since 2010-11.
These personnel cuts have created a significant number of missed classroom educational opportunities for the 1.8 million students in the Commonwealth. Next school year, school districts anticipate eliminating or reducing 370 academic programs, which is in addition to 783 academic program reductions that have occurred since 2010-11. This includes eliminations or reductions in advanced placement courses, business education, dual enrollment, foreign languages, music, theatre, online learning, physical education, kindergarten programs and special education. Outside school activities have also suffered with one-third of responding districts anticipating an elimination or reduction in these programs or charging a fee for extra-curricular and athletic programs.
These continued cuts by school districts have been necessary to counter mandated expenditure increases. Consistent with cost drivers in current year school budgets, pension increases have continued to plague school budget makers in all districts, while rising special education and charter school costs are also contributing to the 2014-15 budget challenges.
With the local share of the total cost of educating students rising to nearly 60% in 2014-15, even with the continued reductions in staff and academic programs, additional local revenue will be needed in many districts to balance budgets. More than three quarters of the survey respondents plan on property tax increases next year, the highest amount in five years.
“As mandated costs continue to rise dramatically, districts are forced to place an increasing burden on local taxpayers, while still continuing contemplate additional cuts,” said Jay Himes, executive director of PASBO. “This trend is simply unsustainable and results in a harmful tension between school districts and their local communities.”
Fifty-six percent of school districts in the state, representing 63% of Pennsylvania’s K-12 enrollment responded to the survey. The survey was conducted between April 14 and May 12 by Research for Action, a Philadelphia –based independent research firm with a focus on education. Their work was possible by a grant from the William Penn Foundation.
The PASBO/PASA survey was delivered electronically to all 500 school districts to determine the impact of the FY 2012-13 enacted state budget and the continuing economic slump on the Commonwealth’s school districts.
The Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials is a statewide organization with more than 3,000 members, two-thirds of whom are K-12 non-instructional administrators serving in the areas of finance, accounting, facilities, transportation, food service, technology, communications, human resources, purchasing and safety. PASBO’s focus is on educating its members through professional development opportunities as well as keeping them informed on the latest legislative issues affecting school business through workshops, the annual conference, specialty conferences and publications. Business Associate members provide products and services that can improve the operation of schools and support classroom learning.
The Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators represents school superintendents and other school leaders from across the Commonwealth. PASA’s mission is to promote high quality public education for all learners through its support and development of professional leadership.
For more information, contact:
Jim Buckheit, PASA Executive Director at (717) 540-4448
Jay Himes, PASBO Executive Director at (717) 540-9551
Jeff Ammerman, PASBO Director of Technical Assistance