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Pennsylvania: SPED costs among "key drivers" of "budget stress"

Jan 28, 2019, WITF, Harrisonburg, PA: Pa. school districts stressed over pensions costs, special-ed and charters http://www.witf.org/news/2019/01/pa-school-districts-stressed-over-pensions-costs-special-ed-and-charters.php Many school districts across Pennsylvania say that budget stress is causing them to raise property taxes and cut school programs, according to an annual survey released by the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials and the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators. The report targets the rise of mandated expenses such as pension obligations, special-education costs and charter school payments as key drivers of budget woes. The annual report is similar to those in years past, and calls for the state to make greater investments in school funding to support the education of the state's 1.7 million public school students. … "We have an education deficit in Pennsylvania," said Jay Himes, PASBO executive director, in the report. "School districts start from behind each year, struggling to find the revenue to cover just the basics...the result is disparate opportunities for students and disparate burden on local taxpayers, much of which could be mitigated with increased state support for education -- particularly if targeted to the areas driving this annual deficit, such as special education." For the 2018-2019 school year, school districts also emphasized their concern for improving the safety and security of their schools. Last year, the state created a new program to provide $52 million in funding for school safety -- a fraction of the more than $300 million that districts requested through a competitive grant process. … Governor Wolf will give his first budget address of his second term next week. During his first term, Wolf's larger education funding requests were met with opposition from Republican leaders and led to protracted budget standoffs.