Last week Gov. Tom Corbett proposed a budget that would slash the state’s education spending by $1.5 billion, forcing local school districts to cut their own spending by 10 percent across the board. At the K-12 level the budget calls for a $550 million cut and the elimination of $260 million in grants.
In what might have been a preemptive measure, Pittsburgh Public School District Superintendant Linda Lane recently restructured her administration, eliminating five vacant positions to save taxpayers $141,000 per year. Lane has also challenged all central office departments to reduce their budget by ten percent to save approximately $3.5 million per year.
“Since becoming superintendent in January, I continue to seek ways to make the District more efficient and effective in providing service to our students,” Lane said.
“I also know that in this time of limited resources we must continue to tighten our belt and reduce our costs. I am confident that this reorganization accomplishes both of those goals.”
The PPS will be directly impacted by four cuts in the governor’s budget proposal. Together the cuts equal a loss of $34.1 million in funding to the district’s proposed $540.9 million 2011 general fund budget.
“Improving student achievement is incredibly hard work in urban areas like Pittsburgh.
The state funding cuts to education, as proposed by the governor, will severely hamper our ability to continue to make progress toward our shared goal of improving the life prospects of our students,” Lane said. “In Pittsburgh, we have outlined a bold vision for reform that has begun to yield results in improving student achievement. However, it will be impossible to absorb a $34.1 million cut in state funding and expect that it will not have consequences for our students, for our schools and our communities.”
The largest of the cuts is a $16.9 reduction of basic education funding. This cut could be especially detrimental due to an additional loss of federal stimulus funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
“If the state passes the reductions in education funding as outlined by the Governor (on March 8), there is no doubt that Pittsburgh will face a myriad of difficult choices, including but not limited to, laying off teachers and staff, closing more neighborhood schools and even raising taxes,” Lane said.
Despite promoting the importance of early childhood education throughout his campaign, Corbett’s budget calls for the elimination of the Accountability Block Grant that funds Pre-K education. The loss of $5.4 million in funding could leave many children without early childhood education.
The smallest cut of $2.5 million comes from the elimination of the Educational Assistance Program that provides funding for the district’s K-12 afterschool program to support struggling students in reading and math. The elimination of this funding will affect approximately 3,872 Pittsburgh students.
Another large cut is the elimination of charter reimbursement funding that provides $9.3 to PPS to offset the loss of funding from students in the district who choose to attend charter schools.
“I appreciate the difficult budget climate the Governor inherited, but solving the state’s problems the way the Governor has outlined simply means pushing the difficult decisions down to the local level,” Lane said. “I intend to work with our leaders in Harrisburg in the coming weeks and months to help them fully appreciate the harsh consequences this budget proposal will have on the lives of our students.”