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Basic education subsidies to increase locally under Corbett's proposed budget

| Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, 4:12 a.m.

Area school districts would get an increased basic education subsidy under Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed budget.

However, it would come in a “student-focused supplement” that would be added to an amount otherwise unchanged from the current school year.

McKeesport Area would get an increase of $304,246, raising its 2013-14 subsidy from $22,978,794 to $23,283,040.

The area's next largest subsidy would go to Norwin, which now gets $15,056,768 but would go to $15,330,035 under the governor's proposal.

Statewide it is a hike of $90 million on top of basic subsidies that total $5.5 billion.

“The $90 million ... will be driven out based on a school district's average daily membership and its aid ratio,” Pennsylvania Department of Education spokesman Tim Eller said.

Sen. James Brewster, D-McKeesport, sees the governor changing his stance of the past two years.

“I believe this renewed commitment is a healthy sign that he now recognizes that his previous two budgets shortchanged schools by $900 million and spurred steep property tax hikes across the state,” Brewster said.

Duquesne City School District would see an increase from $8,501,863 to $8,563,881.

Rep. Marc Gergely, D-White Oak, said Corbett is “ignoring the state's broken school funding formula that puts poorer school districts like Duquesne at a disadvantage.”

But Duquesne will get a continued $2.5 million supplement that also was included in the state's 2012-13 budget.

“There is a line item in the budget, Basic Education Enhancement, that is funded at $2.5 million for 2013-14,” Eller said. “The plan is for that to be provided to Duquesne.”

“(Acting superintendent) Paul Rach and I are studying the numbers,” said Paul B. Long, the state-appointed chief recovery officer who is working on a long-range plan for Duquesne, one of two districts statewide regarded as being in “severe financial recovery.”

“We'll be expressing the outlook as soon as we are able,” Long said. He has until Monday to announce his plan.

Also proposed are hikes for:

• Clairton City to $6,827,474 from $6,752,810.

• East Allegheny to $6,101,591 from $5,965,181.

• Elizabeth Forward to $8,944,310 from $8,783,647.

• South Allegheny to $9,319,950 from $9,198,036.

• Steel Valley to $8,563,999 from $8,437,948.

• West Jefferson Hills to $5,294,060 from $5,155,044.

• West Mifflin Area to $6,516,659 from $6,340,318.

There also is an adjustment in special education funding. Duquesne, for instance, would see a decrease from $617,037 to $613,952.

Other proposed special ed grants include $995,846 for Clairton City, $1,093,423 for East Allegheny, $1,643,587 for Elizabeth Forward, $2,906,401 for McKeesport Area, $2,498,539 for Norwin, $1,051,096 for South Allegheny, $1,263,918 for Steel Valley, $1,678,093 for West Jefferson Hills and $1,832,038 for West Mifflin Area.

Statewide special ed money is down from just under $1.027 billion to 942.8 million.

Accountability grants are proposed for such programs as full-day kindergarten in some districts. All area districts would get in 2013-14 what they're receiving for this school year:

Clairton City, $101,362; Duquesne City, $110,911; East Allegheny, $161,135; Elizabeth Forward, $199,623; McKeesport Area, $404,611; Norwin, $222,586; South Allegheny, $132,847; Steel Valley, $163,215; West Jefferson Hills, $105,529; and West Mifflin Area, $194,523.

Brewster and other area Democratic lawmakers oppose the governor's tie of education funding to privatization of the lottery and liquor stores.

Sen. Matt Smith, D-Mt. Lebanon, said the governor should “focus on making education investment ... without making it contingent on anything else.”

Smith suggested there were loopholes to be closed, urged enactment of a Marcellus shale severance tax, and said the state is not enforcing online sales tax collections.

Other issues raised by local lawmakers include transportation.

“It's hard to believe that after a year and a half of delay, the transportation plan is only half of what the administration's Transportation Funding Advisory Commission recommended,” Sen. Timothy Solobay, D-Canonsburg, said.

“We need at least $3.5 billion to fix our crumbling roads, bridges and mass transit,” Rep. Bill Kortz, D-Dravosburg, said.

Smith applauded Corbett for committing $200,000 toward base closure and realignment support for communities in danger of losing the 911th Airlift Wing, in the western end of his 37th District.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or