HARRISBURG – Senator Ryan Aument (R-Landisville) and Rep. Dave Hickernell (R-West Donegal Township), today expressed appreciation for the bipartisan approval of Senate Bill 807 by the Senate Education Committee, legislation they introduced that is designed to guarantee every school district in Pennsylvania will continue to be funded in the event a state budget is not enacted by August 15 of any year.
“My goal in introducing this legislation with Rep. Hickernell is to ensure that our schools never again have to worry about not being funded in the event there is a budget impasse,” said Sen. Aument. “This bill continues to fulfill our constitutional duty to provide for a thorough and efficient system of education and it keeps a promise to the people of Pennsylvania that we support our public schools.”
Rep. Hickernell, the author of House Bill 1159, companion legislation in the House of Representatives, noted that timely funding schools makes good fiscal sense.
According to Pennsylvania’s Auditor General, who conducted a review of the additional school costs associated with the 2015 budget impasse, school districts in the Commonwealth took out nearly $1 billion in loans to cover shortfalls caused by the state budget impasse, costing them a collective $40 to $50 million in interest.
“No school district should have to borrow money to keep their doors open when state government has the funds sitting in the State Treasury,” said Rep. Hickernell. “At a time when taxpayer resources are scarce, it makes no sense at all to waste $40 to $50 million, none of which will benefit students and will only result in higher property taxes.”
Sen. Aument noted that the failure to timely fund schools in 2015 resulted in unnecessary stress to school boards, educators, parents and students, many of which contacted him to express their frustration with the state budget process.
“I heard my constituents loud and clear. While they supported efforts to manage the cost of state government and prevent unnecessary tax increases, they equally wanted the negative impacts of the impasse resolved, particularly for schools,” said Sen. Aument.
According to a recent survey conducted by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, which asked school districts across the state to provide insight into the impact of the 2015 budget impasse and the associated costs, school districts:
- Drew on monetary reserves to meet financial obligations.
- Borrowed money from outside lenders, incurring loan origination fee costs as well as interest payment costs.
- Missed or reduced required payments to charter and cyber charter schools.
- Experienced a negative impact on their credit rating.
- Delayed building maintenance.
- Stopped afterschool programs.
- Suspended district curriculum writing.
- Deferred hiring needed educators and staff.
- Modified tutoring and remediation, field trips, academic offerings, pre-kindergarten, extracurricular offerings, student social services and kindergarten.
“No one can reasonably argue that not funding schools during the budget impasse produced better results for students, parents, educators or taxpayers,” said Rep. Hickernell. “Sen. Aument and I want to permanently remove our schools from the state budget hostage list so that this never happens again.”
Senate Bill 807 will be reported to the full Senate and is likely to be referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee, where its fiscal impact will be studied.
“I am hopeful that this commonsense, budget reform legislation will move quickly,” said Sen. Aument. “The new fiscal year is quickly approaching and we have a responsibility to ensure we have done all we can to prevent another problem.”
CONTACT: Jake Smeltz, (717) 787-4420