Pennsylvania school districts starting to get state’s long-delayed funding
January 4, 2016 4:25 PM
Matt Rourke/Associated Press
The Wolf administration announced Monday how education money from the new partial state budget would be distributed, and school districts could begin receiving it as early as today.
By Karen Langley and Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
HARRISBURG — The Wolf administration announced Monday how education money from the new partial state budget would be distributed, and school districts could begin receiving it as early as today.
School districts will receive, as a base, a sum equivalent to their first six months of funding from last year, said Jeffrey Sheridan, spokesman for Gov. Tom Wolf. The Democratic governor last week signed into law $23.39 billion worth of state spending, reducing through line-item vetoes the remainder of what had been a $30.26 billion Republican-crafted budget.
The Department of Education said that money from an increase in the main K-12 education line would be used to restore the Education Assistance Program, which provided money for tutoring; to help Chester-Upland School District in Delaware County comply with a financial recovery plan; and to assist the Wilkinsburg School District in the transition of high school students to Pittsburgh Public Schools.
Wilkinsburg superintendent Joseph Petrella and school board president Ed Donovan said they were both happy to hear about the allocation to help with the transition of the Wilkinsburg secondary students to Pittsburgh Westinghouse 6-12.
They said the money would be used, in part, to serve both groups of students by helping them and their families to acclimate to the change and to hire additional staff that will be needed to serve the larger student population at Westinghouse.
Starting this fall, Wilkinsburg plans to send its approximately 200 students in grades 7-12 to Westinghouse, according to a plan approved in the fall by both the Wilkinsburg and Pittsburgh school boards. They will join the 435 students currently attending Westinghouse.
“This is very good news,” Mr. Donovan said. “Without this funding from the state, it would have been extremely challenging for us to make this partnership work. It would have been a hardship not just for Wilkinsburg but for Pittsburgh as well.”
Mr. Donovan said the lack of a state budget, which had prevented funds from being released, had Wilkinsburg officials nervous because they had hoped to start their planning and activities for the transition soon but had no money to do so.
At the state Capitol, legislative Republicans took issue with how the Wolf administration plans to distribute the money.
“We’re still reviewing the numbers at this point,” said Jennifer Kocher, spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre. “It doesn’t appear to adhere to anything that we had talked about in the framework, but this governor has certainly proven he wants to do things his own way.”
“He just chose to do it his own way,” said Steve Miskin, spokesman for House Republicans. “We’re still trying to determine exactly what type of formula he used to do it.”
Jay Himes, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials, said he expects the formula ultimately will change.
The Pennsylvania Treasury said Monday that it had finished sending out 16,400 expedited payments, and that school districts, counties and human service organizations could begin to receive their portion of the nearly $3.3 billion in state funding as soon as today. Treasury said staff members worked over the holiday weekend to begin processing another 35,000 payment requests and that it expects that money will begin to become available at the end of the week.
Karen Langley: email@example.com or 717-787-2141 or on Twitter @karen_langley. Mary Niederberger: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1590 or on Twitter @MaryNied.
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