The PA Association of School Business Officials (PASBO) and the PA Association of School Administrators (PASA) today released their spring 2019 school district budget report, indicating that the fiscal stress in school districts across the commonwealth continues to increase as the state education deficit grows.  Click here to view.

Relying on survey responses from school districts along with publicly available Annual Financial Report and General Fund Budget data submitted by all 500 school districts, the report assesses the financial condition of school districts and its impact on their 2019-20 budget plans.  
Once again, the data tells the story of growing school district fiscal stress tied most significantly to rising mandated costs for charter school tuition, special education and employee pensions. The report highlights the $704 million increase in just these three costs that was heaped on school districts in 2017-18, noting that rising costs in these areas alone outpace increases in state funding and accounted for $0.87 of every new dollar in state funding and local property tax revenue last year. 

Between 2016-17 and 2017-18, charter school tuition grew by 10% to $1.8 billion. Likewise, pension costs increased by nearly 11% to $3.7 billion, and special education costs grew by 4.26% to $4.6 billion.

As a result, in 2017-18, the education deficit—the difference between mandated cost increases and related state funding increases—grew to $2.43 billion. This means that since 2010-11, school districts have covered $2.43 billion in mandated special education, charter school tuition and pension cost increases alone through property tax increases and program and staff reductions.  

“Looking forward to 2019-20, school districts are bracing for continued mandated cost increases and relying on property taxes and hoped-for state funding to balance their budgets,” said Dr. Mark DiRocco, PASA Executive Director. “The increases in education funding proposed in the 2019-20 state budget are inarguably positive for school districts—particularly the $50 million increase in special education funding, which more than doubles the increase in this area last year. This proposed increase in state education funding is certainly helpful for school districts struggling to balance their budgets.” 

However, the survey report shows that school districts are anticipating increasing fiscal stress looking into the future, due primarily to major concerns about future state funding and the extent to which it is eclipsed by rising mandated costs for special education and charter school tuition.  To view the report in its entirity, click here.