Pa. lawmakers displeased over school district reserves

    Some state House lawmakers are blasting Pennsylvania school districts for keeping millions of dollars in reserve while education advocates lobby for more state funding. Rep. Mike Vereb (R.) of Montgomery County, is singling out the five school districts with the highest fund balances.  The figures, reported last June, max out at $148 million for Pittsburgh public schools, and runners-up reported fund balances between $30 and $50 million.Vereb says schools should be using those funds to maintain programs, avoid laying off teachers, and absorb state funding cuts.  “We’re not disputing that school boards need their own, per se, rainy day fund.  We’re not saying they should have no surplus.  We’re not saying they should not have money to cover themselves in some loss of revenue. We get that,” he said.The spokeswoman for Pittsburgh public schools says the district’s fund balance is crucial, due to a projected deficit in three years. She adds that the district uses its fund balance for operational costs; and by the end of the calendar year, it will actually have a fund balance of about $43 million. Last year, education funding was cut by $860 million, due to a loss of federal stimulus money and no state dollars allocated to replace it. The governor proposed a slight increase in overall basic education funding for next year, and Senate lawmakers have added $100 million to their spending plan for public schools.

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