PA legislators battle over school funding

    State legislators have just over six weeks to finalize a budget, and Philadelphia officials are girding for the annual battle over public school funding. A proposal from Senate Republicans would force the Philadelphia School District to make big cuts in next year’s budget.

    State legislators have just over six weeks to finalize a budget, and Philadelphia officials are girding for the annual battle over public school funding. A proposal from Senate Republicans would force the Philadelphia School District to make big cuts in next year’s budget.

    Listen:

    [audio:090513bhschool.mp3]

    At the heart of this year’s budget debate lie hundreds of millions in federal stimulus funds. Governor Rendell wants to use those funds to help boost Pennsylvania’s overall education budget. But Republican legislators want to use stimulus dollars to replace state funds, holding the line on spending.

    Lori Shorr is Philadelphia’s chief education officer. She says the city will lobby hard to preserve Rendell’s proposed increases.

    Shorr: I think what Harrisburg needs to see is when they invest in Philly, they get returns. We see six years of increased PSSA scores, school attendance is up, the graduation rate is up, I mean, it’s paying off. They’ve invested and it’s paying off.

    Shorr says the Senate proposal would cost Philadelphia schools about 300 million. That would spell the end of district plans to hire more teachers and guidance counselors next year. State legislators have until July to pass a budget.

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