Senate Republicans Oppose Wolf Administration’s Mandate on School Districts to Provide Reports on Unauthorized Funding

(HARRISBURG) – The Wolf Administration is overreaching its executive power by mandating that Pennsylvania school districts provide the Department of Education with reporting of how non-appropriated funding would be spent, according to Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25), Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-34), Senate Appropriations Chairman Pat Browne (R-16), Senate Majority Whip John Gordner (R-27) and Senate Education Committee Chairman Lloyd Smucker (R-13).

Senate Republicans took significant issue with a letter sent today to school superintendents by Acting Education Secretary Pedro Rivera that required school districts to submit spending plans for a portion of the suggested increased funding in the Governor’s proposed 2015-16 budget.

“This latest political stunt by the Wolf Administration completely disregards the need for the legislative process,” said Senator Scarnati.  “Governor Wolf and his Administration are placing a significant burden on our school officials by mandating that they complete these reports for funding, which has not been vetted by the Legislature.”

Senate Republican leaders have been encouraging a sensible approach to planning of school district budgets for the 2015-16 fiscal year, due to massive tax increases needed to support the Governor’s proposed spending plans.

“This letter is concerning for its obvious political posturing,” said Senator Corman.  “The influx of money into the schools is based on a mix of many historic tax increases. We clearly don’t have that money in the coffers at this point. In sworn testimony, the Acting Budget Secretary asked that we look at the entire budget as a whole. Yet in this letter, Wolf’s Acting Education Secretary is requiring schools to look at the budget piecemeal and account for spending money the state doesn’t have. Placing this mandate on our schools is premature. Asking the districts to jump through hoops to provide plans for money that is part of a massive proposed overall budget burden is a waste of valuable time and resources that should be dedicated to educating children.”

“We certainly understand the challenges school district administrators and school boards face when appropriating their annual budgets in anticipation of state revenues,” said Senator Browne.  “However, it is vital that they use caution in counting on and budgeting for any increases in state funding until an actual education spending bill is approved by the state legislature and signed by the governor.  The Senate Appropriations Committee has just begun budget hearings and has yet to even hear testimony from the Acting Secretary of Education. These budget hearings are the first opportunity members have to hear, in more detail, the governor’s proposed budget and ask questions of each department secretary before formulating a thoroughly thought-out plan to both fund education and protect hardworking taxpayers.”

“The Administration seems to want to spend money that has yet to be appropriated,” said Senator Gordner.  “I met last week with school superintendents from my area who indicated they plan to budget conservatively and are not counting on receiving the entire increase called for in the Governor’s budget because they recognize that the tax burden to fund such a proposal is not sustainable.”

“We look forward to a vigorous discussion over the next few months about what works to ensure every child in Pennsylvania has the opportunity for a world-class education,” said Senator Smucker.  “This process demands a high level of analysis and collaboration.  This letter, issued so early in the process, is premature and the antithesis of that spirit of cooperation.”

“Each and every member of the Senate Republican Caucus desires to help provide our students and teachers across Pennsylvania with the resources that they need to learn and succeed,” said Senator Scarnati.  “However, we cannot and will not continue to ask more and more from taxpayers without addressing excessive cost drivers and the need for pension reform.”

CONTACTS:

Drew Crompton (Senator Scarnati), dcrompton@pasen.gov
Jenn Kocher (Senator Corman), jkocher@pasen.gov
Matt Moyer (Senator Browne), mmoyer@pasen.gov
Todd Roup (Senator Gordner), troup@pasen.gov
Matt Parido (Senator Smucker), mparido@pasen.gov