Superintendents, School Choice and Budgets
Pennsylvania’s state of education
By Chris Bowman
The economic landscape of education in Pennsylvania is rocky at best. Facing budget cuts on the state and federal level, legislators around the state are looking for ways to cut costs in the tempestuous economic climate, but to mixed reviews.
Just as corporate CEO’s exorbitant salaries are scrutinized, so too will school District Supintendents’ – that is, if State Rep. Michael McGeehan (D-Phila.) has anything to say about it. Representative McGeehan recently fulminated to Fox that “Not only does [Philadelphia] Superintendent [Arlene] Ackerman make more than the governor, and not only does she make more than the mayor of Philadelphia, she makes more than the governor and the mayor combined.”
As school districts across the state face harsh budget cuts, Representative McGeehan explained that “we need to reign in these excessive public payrolls.” Ackerman, head of the struggling Philadelphia Area School District with a budget gap nearly double that of 2007, has been heavily criticized of late. With high drop-out rates, low test scores and now budget trouble, the city’s district is in trouble.
Some also feel that educational budgets statewide face similar, potentially-ruinous problems. Gov. Corbett promoted shifting almost $1 billion of funding from the state’s responsibility to the federal government. However, this allocation from the federal government may also evaporate and leave the educational system in an abyss. This move comes after most educational organizations supported Onorato in the governor’s race last fall.
To potentially remedy the issue of state and school district budgets, the state Senate is pushing school choice as an alternative to mandated teacher furloughs due to economic necessity. This bill is also perceived as a viable substitute to hiking property taxes to decrease the deficit.
Tom Gentzel, executive director of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, disputed the school choice bill’s ability to lower the public education costs: “Public education is hamstrung by the thousands of mandates, rules and regulations that are imposed by the state and federal governments while private education has to follow relatively few rules, most of which do not add expense to the school.”
Next month’s state budget will provide valuable, if not alarming, information regarding the future of public education funding in PA.