One Democratic state lawmaker is warning that poor schools are being overlooked as the Pennsylvania Legislature gets down to the final two weeks of budget negotiations.
Sen. Anthony Williams points to the Philadelphia School District, which is laying off nearly 3,800 workers, and says other financially distressed districts will join it soon if the state doesn’t send more money.
Lawmakers are too busy trying to find consensus on policy issues orbiting around the budget, he said.
“Pensions, transportation, liquor, they’re being resolved as we speak. Education has not been resolved,” he said Monday. “And it can actually affect whether we get a budget or not.”
He stressed that it’s an issue that should concern Republicans just as much as Democrats.
“This is not just D’s, this is R’s and D’s because a number of those distressed districts are in R districts as well,” said Williams, D-Philadelphia.
The Philadelphia School District is seeking $120 million more from the state.
But the Republican chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee says the most district officials can hope for would be a sum in the tens of millions of dollars.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Jake Corman points to the budget proposal passed by the House and now before the Senate, which adds to Gov. Tom Corbett’s budget proposal for schools.
“The budget already calls for $100 million of new money for education. That’s not insignificant by any stretch of the imagination,” said Corman, R-Centre.
Corman suggests freezing the phase-out of a business tax for one year might be a good way to raise revenues for the sake of all financially distressed schools.
But the House GOP majority leader calls such a plan a non-starter.