Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania are insisting the state’s public schools spend down $3.2 billion in reserve funds left from last year’s budget before raising taxes or laying off teachers, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“To be holding onto this type of revenue, still proposing additional tax increases and blaming us for not giving them enough money is ludicrous,” said state Rep. Mike Vereb. “The people on these school boards that are holding onto these pots of money need to come clean with the taxpayers that they are about to jump into their pockets and raid one more time.”
Vereb pointed to Pittsburgh’s public schools as an example of a system that still has at least $148 million in reserves but is planning on laying off up 350 teachers.
Vereb and other GOP lawmakers are working on legislation that would bar local school districts from raising taxes if their reserves are more than 5 percent above their operating budgets. Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration also backs the idea of making districts spend down reserves before raising taxes.
“These funds are intended for rainy days. It’s raining,” Tim Eller, a spokesman for the state Department of Education, told the Post-Gazette. “Instead of demanding more from local taxpayers, they should be using their savings accounts to reduce the burden on taxpayers.”
But David Broderic, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Education Association, stressed that paying down reserves won’t fix the crisis in school funding.
“If it’s not addressed soon, school districts’ reserves will be gone long before the storm ends, and students will be the ones who suffer for it,” Broderic said.
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