Advocacy Update

As I’m sure many of you have heard, Governor Wolf received a budget in late December. The budget he received was not the “framework” budget that was reportedly agreed on by Wolf, the House and Senate. However, through a series of some political twists and turns, Wolf received a budget and allowed some funding to go to schools and human services while vetoing other portions of the budget. He’s still not pleased with this budget and hopes the legislature can come back together to provide him with a budget that he is willing to sign.
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Here is some further background on the budget situation. (AKA, the policy wonk part of me is coming out here.) The basic education funding portion of what Wolf signed accounts for six months worth of school funding. Wolf’s thinking here was that this would be “emergency funding” going to schools so all districts would re-open in January as many had threatened to not open.  (Some say that threat was a political stunt in an attempt to get funding released. If it was, it worked.)
This “emergency funding” is far from a solution because
1) depending how you do the math, even if this budget was enacted for 12 months, it would not increase funding for education and some argue it would decrease funding
2) school districts have already had to secure loans to keep the doors open and that’s with summer and fall behind us when the bulk of local taxes are collected
3) with a downgraded credit rating, school districts may have a hard time securing more loans.
Here is the link to the PDE page showing budget information as well as a link showing how much each district will receive.
As I understand it, the budget was sent to Governor Wolf and he and PDE made the decision to use the previously agreed to hybrid funding formula.  The state will still use the hold harmless stipulation and no district will receive less money than the previous year.
Two observations:
1) I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some push back because Wolf used the hybrid funding formula instead of last year’s formula.
2) One of the goals of the new funding formula was predictability.  The distribution of these funds is far from predictable and what happens with the rest of the distribution is really unpredictable.
Here’s a couple of good resources if you’re interested in reading further.
We will continue to monitor the budget and will continue to pass on pertinent information. Again, I urge you to take a few minutes to contact you legislators to urge them to come back to the table to finish a 15-16 budget.
Mark Despotakis
Chair, PMEA Advancement of Music Education Council