The PA State budget, school district budgets and the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression—how does all of this fit into the funding our school districts require to continue educating students and serving their communities?
PSBA Chief Advocacy Officer, John Callahan and Director of Research, Andrew Christ join host Annette Stevenson to discuss the misnomer about reduced expenses during school closures, mandated expenses on-the-increase, the detrimental impacts of proposed property tax freezes and highlights of the pre-coronavirus data featured in the 2020 State of Education report.

Skip to: #01:06 Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, PSBA released the 2020 State of Education report. This annual report measures the performance of and challenges facing public schools. How would you summarize the key findings from the 2020 State of Education report? As a pre-pandemic snapshot – provide a few highlights.

For the fourth year in a row, we’ve seen that mandated costs, like pensions, charter school tuition and special education, have caused the budget pressure to be the single biggest challenge facing school districts.

Skip to: #02:53 How would a property tax freeze, which has been talked about among legislators, impact districts that are already struggling financially?

This year is interesting because charter school tuition payments are now the biggest source of budget pressure for school districts.

The property tax freeze, it could be really detrimental to some school districts because that’s how they pay for these increased mandated costs.

While everybody’s concerned about the taxpayers, at the same time we have to kind of figure out how to educate and get through the crisis as well.

Skip to: #08:06 When schools went online due to the pandemic, many of these districts struggled to get a device for each student. This brought to light a disparity among access to technology. What other disparities were highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and do you think these disparities being brought to light will change funding going forward?

Poverty costs school districts in so many different ways. The computer, the access to technology, the access to the internet or the need for different social work services. Poverty really impacts our school districts on the expense side of things.

Skip to: #11:42 There has been some speculation that schools are saving money because students are not in buildings. Schools are still required to meet normally sustained financial obligations such as IDEA compliance and providing meals to students. How can the state and federal government assist schools as they cope with this challenge?

Skip to: #14:48 The proposed state budget was presented back in January. What is different now, going into the final stretch toward June and the final budget discussions?

It’s the perfect time for school advocates to get out there and talk to the legislators, tell them their local story. Then also make that push. We need funding from the state level. We need your support in this time of crisis. It’s not time to pull back on education because we got to get through it.

Skip to: #17:55 PSBA is now accepting proposals for consideration for the association’s 2021 Legislative Platform. Do you anticipate the pandemic impacting the association’s legislative priorities?

Coming soon!