by Lauren Daley
Here's some insight to the education portion of the budget from The Education Policy and Leadership Center, which held a conference call on the matter this morning, led by EPLC president Ronald Cowell.
"It appears the cutting has stopped. Folks all over Pennsylvania know we've had two awful years of very significant cuts in state support for basic education and higher education," Cowell says. While he notes that Corbett's previous basic education cuts amounted to nearly $900 million, this year's proposal include "modest steps, albeit very modest steps forward in some areas." But, he notes, "these increases in no way begin to restore overall cuts that were made over the last two years."
Cowell says the "best news" is that early childhood education programs could get about a 3.4 percent boost of about $11.4 million.
As for areas of concern, Cowell says funding for the programs "Pre-K Counts" and Head Start remains "a long way from serving all the kids who'd be eligible and would would benefit from these services," but notes that the budget proposal "represented some step forward;" under Corbett's proposal, Pre-K Counts would receive $87.2 million, a 5.4 percent increase and Head Start would receive $39.1 million, a 5.1 percent increase.
He also notes that special education funding remains status quo for the sixth consecutive year. "It again, in a very stark way, represents an example of more burden being shifted to school districts,' Cowell says. "Nobody would argue that there's been no increase in special ed costs incurred in the last six years. ... but the state has not increased its help."
The other significant question mark for K-12 funding is just how much — and when — districts would reap the benefits of revenue Corbett claims will be generated from privatizing the state's liquor stores.
"This is very speculative," Cowell says. "No school board and no school business manager or superintendent could, in any way, begin to county on this money as a way to fund the school districts budget."