Please Join Today!
view counter

Survey paints bleak picture of Pa. funding

By Mary Wilson for New​sWorks on Jun 6, 2014 09:56 AM

A survey of traditional Pennsylvania school districts paints a grim picture for the coming academic year, with most respondents bracing for higher costs and fewer resources.

Just over half of the state's school districts responded to the fourth annual study conducted by the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators and the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials. The survey did not include responses from public charter or cyber charter schools.

About two-thirds of the respondents said they had increased class sizes or expected to do so in the coming school year. Nearly 90 percent said they had reduced staff or plan to do so through furloughs or not filling vacant positions, and 77 percent said they expected to raise property taxes in the coming year.

Ninety percent of responding districts reported making some change to transportation, with most of them canceling or combining bus routes.

"What this means is that with fewer buses and fewer stops, kids are riding the bus longer," said Jeff Ammerman of PASBO.

Most of the respondents reported seeing rising mandated costs in areas such as health care, special education, and payments to charter schools.

Read the rest of the story at NewsWorks


Click Here
view counter

Comments (24)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 6, 2014 12:20 pm
Don't forget to thank Governor Corbett and Secretary Zogby.
Submitted by Publius1788 (not verified) on June 6, 2014 3:00 pm
I do not expect many comments about this article because it presents facts contrary to the accepted orthodoxy on this site. You can blame Governor Corbett all you want; however, the school districts across the state are experiencing funding issues associated with,”at least a 25 percent hike in their required pension contribution last year.” The current governor inherited this problem. The principal problem is clearly stated in the article – increasing costs. It is important to note that state funding for K-12 education is increasing, but the school districts surveyed for this article indicate budget problems. (There are too many who believe Philly is targeted by Harrisburg or that the SDP is unique.) Those who want better K-12 education in Philadelphia must understand that electing Mr. Tom Wolf will not make the budget problems go away. Go Frankford High! Sincerely, Publius 1788
Submitted by Taxpayer (not verified) on June 6, 2014 6:04 pm
You won't hear from any PFT members here. A 25% hike in pension contributions? That's huge! Add in the hikes in healthcare costs and it's no wonder that the SDP is having financial problems even though their budget has increased at THREE times the rate of inflation over the last ten years. The money is not getting to the students. It's all going to the teachers! We need to immediately put these people on 401K type plans and have them pay a portion of their healthcare premiums.
Submitted by anon (not verified) on June 6, 2014 8:10 pm
congrats. you've found your twin, no doubt separated at birth.
Submitted by Publius1788 (not verified) on June 7, 2014 9:23 pm
Dear Anon, I do not have a twin. I am just pointing to the fact that some believe the Philly school funding problem will be gone once Corbett is removed from office. This is not the case. If we truly care about K-12 education in Philadelphia we need to acknowledged this and work toward a solution. Sincerely, Publius 1788
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 10, 2014 4:12 pm
All this is required by a 35-50% increase in benefits that the state gave out to teachers and state employees retroactively in 2001-2. This unearned payoff created a multi-billion dollar hole in the pension fund immediately. The state politicians (mainly Rendell) then compounded the problem by not funding their contribution and letting local governments postpone their commitment. They did this with the unions' full support since postponing pension contributions frees up current operating budgets for unsupportable raises, further compounding the pension debt they are owed. That is how we went from fully funded state + teacher pension plan to a $48 billion pension deficit in 13 years. It was PA's version of Detroit's 13 check scam, but much much larger. The day of reckoning is now here. At least for everyone except the beneficiaries of that fraud. Pension contributions will soak up a greater share of the budget. Even as spending and taxes go up, the amount that goes to running schools will decline. When a Democrat comes in, they will inherit this same mess. Taxing frackers to extinction would barely fund that 2001 fraud. The debt is so big now that the typical pols playbook won't work anymore- promise ever bigger benefits and then hide the cost for 20 years won't work.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 7, 2014 6:28 am
As a PFT member, I don't see any problem with the state officials' pension plans that are more lucrative than the teachers having any problem. Do you?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 7, 2014 11:06 am
Their plans need to be reformed, too. If the taxpayers can deal with 401(K) type plans, so can our civil servants.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 7, 2014 10:31 pm
The problem with changing to 401k programs is that the rich get richer. What is wrong with a defined benefit plan? Corporate America had these plans before. Why not now?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 8, 2014 11:38 am
How so? In a 401K you put your money in and an investment company invests it based on your choices. The fees are nominal. In a defined benefit plan, a full time staff of investment people invest the money through investment companies for a fee. It's no different in terms of costs.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 8, 2014 11:00 am
It is different in terms of security. If the bottom falls out of companies you invest in with a 401K you lose your retirement.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on June 8, 2014 3:19 pm
Anonymous, I'm playing devil's advocate here because what you are saying is not necessarily consistent with what I know about 401(k) plans. Could you provide some sort of reputable source to support your claim that "If the bottom falls out of companies you invest in with a 401K you lose your retirement"? Thanks.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on June 8, 2014 9:38 pm
EGS and Anonymous, 401ks are protected by law against creditors in the case of a company's bankruptcy. In addition, you can take them with you if you change jobs or are laid off. There are far fewer companies today that can offer defined benefit plans/pensions. At least with a 401k, you have something to keep, even if you have to change jobs several times (which is increasingly common in today's job market.)
Submitted by gloriaendres (not verified) on June 10, 2014 2:13 am
The whole point of the defined benefit plan is to encourage an employee to remain with the company for the duration. Teachers collect their pensions only after at least 35 years of service to the school district. A teacher can move from school to school within the district but the employer stays the same. Nothing stops a school employee from having a separate investment account or IRA and many do. There is no real comparison here with the private sector. Teaching is supposed to be a lifetime profession not a bus stop to something else. The movement to end the pension system is precisely to make teaching a temporary and therefore cost effective position for management. If they could they would replace professional teachers with temporary amateurs like Teach for America who stay only a couple of years and move on, never to become invested in a pension. And to be replaced with more cheap labor. This is anti-educational, anti-intellectual, anti-democratic, and in the end anti-American. Destroy the profession of teaching and you destroy our republic.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on June 10, 2014 8:56 am
If the profession of teaching is a calling, then nothing can destroy it. It is the same with artists.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on June 10, 2014 8:51 am
Can I point out that the system in Japan has run into real problems with lifetime guarantees, for reasons that have nothing to do with "hedge fund manager greed"? Read about it sometime.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 10, 2014 9:33 pm
Corporate America figured out that management teams would artificially boost performance by promising benefits today and covering up their cost for decades. Decades later by the time the bill came due, the management team that gave the benefits was long gone, bonuses cashed. The shareholders were then stuck with massive pension debt that made their companies uncompetitive. Their companies cash flow was consumed by past pension promises, limiting investment in the business. New investment instead went to competitors. Within a few decades, formerly dominant companies in steel, airlines, auto and heavy manufacturing went bankrupt. When they reorganized, they learned from their mistakes. Does any of that sound familiar? Too bad the district can't go bankrupt. What happened in the public sector is the same story, but with many fewer checks and balances. Public sector workers pay their management to give them a better deal. Government accounting standards allow these pols to cover up the cost of these promise for decades (DROP was supposedly revenue neutral $250 million ago). Even grossly corrupt and incompetent governments rarely go bankrupt. And taxpayers can always be milked for ever more money in a way investors couldn't. Promise something today. Leave it to people 10-30 years from now to pay for it. That is a system designed for fraud, especially in the public sector.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 8, 2014 12:09 pm
The people with 401(k)s should be fighting for the return to defined benefit plans not against the people who still have them. otherwise we are all going backwards and downwards.
Submitted by gloriaendres (not verified) on June 10, 2014 2:43 am
Exactly. Defined benefits were always meant to encourage longevity with a company, thus rewarding experience. Job hoppers are not good for a company, since they never develop the kind of expertise that comes only with experience. Teachers must continue their education and skill building for the duration of their careers. They invest in their pension fund from every paycheck. The only reason there is a movement to switch to a 401K system is to make teaching a temporary job and to enrich fund managers at the expense of the workers.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 10, 2014 10:33 pm
Sometimes 30 year employees aren't good for a company either. Philadelphia is one organization that has almost entirely long-term employees who will never leave. It is one of the most incompetent organizations you will ever come across, and not for the lack of resources. City workers collective experience is worse than worthless- their experience calcifies bad practices and inefficient fiefdoms. Its resistance to any change makes good employees give up trying. As nice as a salary for life is, 30 years bound to anywhere sounds like serfdom. Outside of teaching, talented people are scared away by that sort of culture. Imagine you are 10 years in and want to do something else, but you lose your retirement benefits. What do you do? Private sector employers are highly suspicious of your "experience", skills and work ethic. Hang out for 20 years? At least you know you can never be fired. Maybe work a job on the side. Maybe max out sick days for a 4 day workweek. Low salaries and lavish pension benefits is a great formula to create a sick organization dominated by professional grifters and unproductive slugs.
Submitted by gloriaendres (not verified) on June 10, 2014 2:28 am
I just want to add that comparing education to private sector business is disingenuous. Businesses do come and go but we always need a guaranteed school system. The problem with privately managed education like charter schools is precisely this urge to sell or quit the business when profits are no longer coming in. Publicly funded education means it is not subject to the whims of the marketplace. In plain English, the business model does not fit school.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 10, 2014 10:55 am
Don't you see what is going on here people? The rich are taking away your benefits. It used to be a defined benefit world. They took that away and made it a defined contribution world. They then took that away and made it a 401(k) world with only minor employer contributions but mainly employee contributions. Maybe that is why we have so many millionaires and billionaires.
Submitted by Go-Eagles (not verified) on June 10, 2014 8:22 pm
What's the contribution to the teachers pension? Isn't it 7% and the taxpayer matches it with another 7%? Most 401(k)'s allow up to 15% employee contributions with 5% matching contributions from the employer. You can diversify into different levels of risk. I don't know about you, but my 401(k) is doing rather nice. Nobody has taken away my money. To be clear, I control my own money. Sure, the stock market goes up and down. I can move my money accordingly, even to a cash position. It's about risk. You give your money to PSERS and they handle it for you. Ever hear of the Pension Benefit Guarantee Company? Maybe you should talk to the retirees from the City of Detroit. How about the steel workers? Airline industry? Can I go on here? Ya know, reduced benefits. They are already saying PSERS is underfunded. Here's my point, nothing is guaranteed. Nothing. From what I'm seeing, you're better off in the 401(k) world than a pension plan. You can forget about getting more money getting into the classroom. It's going to the fund the pension plan. Corbett didn't cut anything. He's actually trying to SAVE YOUR PENSION unlike Rendell. Don't you teachers get it? BTW, right after the election, PSERS decided to due business with Bain Capital. In case you didn't know, Bain Capital is owned by Mitt Romney. It seems PSERS liked the rate of return from Bain Capital. Kind of an odd couple.
Submitted by Caleb (not verified) on July 3, 2014 9:44 am
This seems to be a trend we are seeing nationwide. Our schools systems are having an increase in student population and a significant decrease in qualifies personnel. If we do not discover an efficient solution to properly educate our children and keep qualified teachers in the classroom, the future of this country is in jeopardy.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

By using this service you agree not to post material that is obscene, harassing, defamatory, or otherwise objectionable. We reserve the right to delete or remove any material deemed to be in violation of this rule, and to ban anyone who violates this rule. Please see our "Terms of Usage" for more detail concerning your obligations as a user of this service. Reader comments are limited to 500 words. You are fully responsible for the content that you post.

Follow Us On

Read the latest print issue

Philly Ed Feed

Recent Comments


Public School Notebook

699 Ranstead St.
Third Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Phone: (215) 839-0082
Fax: (215) 238-2300

© Copyright 2013 The Philadelphia Public School Notebook. All Rights Reserved.
Terms of Usage and Privacy Policy