Report: School districts continue to cut as financial picture worsens

A report released today announced news that might not come as a surprise to many: school districts continue to cut as financial situations worsen for 2012-13.

“The financial condition of Pennsylvania’s public school districts is declining from ‘difficult’ in the current school year to ‘desperate’ in 2012-13,” says the report from the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials

and the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators.

The report comes from the third annual school district budget survey, which collected data from 281 of the state’s 500 school districts, according to a news release.

A “rapid decline” in financial conditions is now forcing districts to cut programs “that directly affect student learning” including kindergarten, academic courses, tutoring programs and summer school, the report says. Teachers and other staffers are being furloughed, class sizes are expected to increase, and extra-curricular activities might come with fees — if the programs still exist, the report says.

We’ve already been seeing many examples of these kinds of cuts here in York County. But here’s a sampling of the data collected from school districts.

  • 61 percent will increase class size
  • 58 percent will reduce electives not required for graduation
  • 49 percent will put off buying new textbooks
  •  34 percent will eliminate summer school programs
  • 11 percent will reduce full-day kindergarten and 8 percent will eliminate full-day kindergarten
  • 46 percent will reduce or eliminate extra-curricular activities, including sports
  • 75 percent will furlough staff or plan to leave vacant positions unfilled

Here’s one stat that was interesting to me:  18 percent plan to close one or more school buildings.

That’s an idea we’re hearing more and more about. Dover Area School District closed Kralltown Elementary School for 2011-12, and York City School District is considering closing both of its middle schools for next year.  Others have floated the idea, too.

Still, despite financial pressures, 29 percent of districts opted not to raise taxes in 2011-12, the report says. But use of fund balance by districts was three times more in 2011-12 than 2010-11.

The report ends on a not-so-bright note.

“School districts across the state are surviving financially, some just barely, through reductions in instructional programs and personnel unheard of since the Great Depression,” the report says. “Future cost increases, not only in mandated pension costs but also health care and energy, will likely make the next several budget years even more difficult.”

Check out the report for yourself. What do you think?

About Angie Mason

I'm the education reporter at the York Daily Record. Follow me on Twitter: @angiemason1
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