Budget Fight Squeezes PA Schools

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Pennsylvania’s budget impasse is in its third month, and school funding is one of the major sticking points. Democratic Governor Tom Wolf wants to raise taxes and give districts a big boost in aid. Republicans oppose that plan.

Montrose Area Schools superintendent Carol Boyce has a close eye on the debate. She says if state aid is low, schools will have to cut essential programs.

“I’m not aware of any district in our area that has what some people might call fluff, or extra types of things,” she says. “We have really over the years pared back, so we’re not dealing with extra things that we can afford to do without.”

The budget stalemate has also delayed payout of state aid to schools, and many are running out of cash. Lackawanna County’s Carbondale Area School District has said it may have to close down if the impasse continues. Boyce says shutting down is a last resort, but she doesn’t rule it out. She says some of the delayed money is for basic expenses.

“Our transportation aid, which is based on the funding formula from two years ago – that money has been delayed,” she says.

Boyce says years of tight finances have already forced the district to eliminate any programs they can do without. She’s not sure what can go if they have to make more cuts.

“We’re talking about preparing our youngsters for graduation and what happens after graduation, and we need all of the programs that we have instituted in order for that to happen.”

Republican lawmakers plan to bring Wolf’s latest funding proposal to a vote on Wednesday. The governor recently vetoed a Republican plan that he said would force further cuts to schools.

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