By Helen Zeidman
Hostages have been taken. Insults have been thrown. Promises have been broken. The fate of Pennsylvania’s education system hangs in the air. The battle to approve the Pennsylvania State Budget for 2015 has evolved into a war, and the amount of casualties has been rising.
Public schools are scrambling to find funding. The Pennsylvania School Board Association has filed a lawsuit against Governor Tom Wolf, claiming that the schools are not getting the financial support that is promised to them in the Pennsylvania state constitution. Public universities, such as Temple University and Penn State University, are lacking the funding that they are supposed to receive annually.
“What it forced schools to do is to create austerity budgets, where you cut spending to the bone,” Principal Mark Shue said. “I know this year we have cut back spending.”
During all of this chaos, Governor Tom Wolf and the Pennsylvania State Senate and House of Representatives are stuck in a deadlock over the provisions of the 2015-2016 state budget.
Governor Tom Wolf has been using his power of the line item veto, which is a specific authority given to governors that allows them to reject certain parts of a bill, to turn down proposals from the Republican dominated legislature.
Tom Wolf’s original budget contained policies consistent with Democratic ideals that were not initially approved of by the Republican majority of the State Legislature. The discrepancies between the Democrat governor and the largely Republican legislature have made the state budget difficult to pass. This led to the current predicament of Pennsylvania going over 200 days without a solid state budget.
The priorities of Governor Wolf’s gubernatorial campaign are “schools that teach, jobs that pay, and government that works,” according to his website, Governor.pa.gov. One of the main changes in the original budget, which was proposed back in March of 2015, was an increase in education funding. This would include more funding for basic education, special education, early education, and secondary education.
The increase in funding for schools could help keep taxes in the school district down.
“Pretty much what happens in Red Lion is that we have an operating budget. What the state doesn’t cover, the tax payers will,” Principle Shue said.
If the school district receives more funding from the state budget, then that money could be used to maintain the current tax rate and possibly prevent tax increases.
While the rewards could be great, the delay of the state budget has caused obstacles for many schools in Pennsylvania, including tightening the budget for the Red Lion Area School District. Without an approved state budget, Pennsylvania school funding will not be the only casualty in the war to approve the budget.