By: Andrea Sears
HARRISBURG, Pa. — While Texas and Florida have been hit by natural disasters, education advocates say a man-made disaster in the form of a budget crisis is about to make landfall in Pennsylvania.
The state House of Representatives still has not acted on a bill to fund the state budget. On Tuesday, state Treasurer Joe Torsella announced that the treasury will be empty by Friday and, if the budget hasn’t been finalized, he will not authorize loans to meet state obligations.
Dolores McCracken, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, said that would hit the state’s public schools hard.
“If the House doesn’t act soon, our schools could miss $1 billion in state funding payments in September and October,” McCracken said.
The Republican majority in the House is deeply divided over how to raise the money needed to pay for the budget it passed in June.
School funding in Pennsylvania is heavily dependent on local property taxes. And, as McCracken pointed out, that means the poorest school districts would feel the most immediate impact.
“Because they don’t have a taxpayer base that they get earlier on in the year like some of our wealthier school districts, we have districts that will actually worry about whether or not they can make payroll,” she said.
The budget bill that passed earlier this year does include some increases in state funding for education. But McCracken said the increases really only replace money that had been cut from state funding for education in previous budgets.
“Without a revenue package, we stand to lose the billion dollars that we have restored over the last 2 1/2 years,” McCracken said.
Without additional revenue, and with limited discretionary funds available, the state may be forced to make $2.2 billion in cuts to the approved budget.