Schools wait to see how budget affects districts
By Karl Polacek
Published: Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett's budget proposal for 2014-2015 promises more money for education.
But school superintendents from Southmoreland and Mt. Pleasant Area said they do not know what the proposed increases will mean for their districts.
Southmoreland Superintendent Dr. John Molnar said the state will be sending information to each district.
“Now it takes time to see how certain things (in the proposed budget) will work,” said Mt. Pleasant Superintendent Dr. Timothy Gabauer.
Molnar said some items listed by Corbett were not a surprise, such as the teacher evaluation school performance profile changes. Others seemed too small to make much of a difference, such as the Pre K Counts program — $10 million increase to serve 1,670 additional children.
Other programs seemed like large increases, such as combining the successful and popular Accountability Block Grant with the Ready to Learn Block Grant with $341 million in combined funding for the two programs. Molnar said he would have to wait and see what Southmoreland's share would be.
“The $241 million increase (in the combined block grant program), what does that mean?” asked Gabauer. “It is great to see an increase.”
Molnar noted that Southmoreland is a relatively small district.
“Will it help offset our budget deficit?” Molnar asked. “Philadelphia is large and we are little. When they get a lot, we get a little.”
Molnar worried about the effect on the program that would offer help from the state's best schools to other schools needing improvement. Southmoreland has two schools that would be tutoring other schools under the program.
Molnar was happy with an increase in special education funding. However, he said the increase would amount to $74 per year per special education student in Pennsylvania (less than 50 cents per school day per student).
“All of us would like to see a basic funding increase,” said Gabauer. “That's flat once again.”
Gabauer added he is glad to see some increase in education subsidies.
“I didn't see many minuses,” he said. “But what comes along with those dollars? What flexibility do you have with those dollars?”
Help with the problem of funding the public retirement system might be good for the districts.
“Pension costs are rising every year and are eating a good chunk of (our) budget,” said Molnar.
He said reform of the pension system seems necessary.
Attempts to reach officials from Connellsville Area and Frazier school districts were unsuccessful.
Karl Polacek is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 724-626-3538.
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