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Report: Aid Cuts Forced Pa. School Districts to Reduce Programs, Raise Local Taxes

Cuts in state and federal aid, a recession, and rising external costs have led Pennsylvania school districts to shed thousands of jobs and programs and rely heavily on local property taxes to fund schools, according to a report by two state organizations.

Schools in high poverty areas were most affected by the reliance on local taxpayers, according to the report released this week by the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators and the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials. The report was based on survey responses from 279 of the state's 500 school districts.

Even with Gov. Tom Corbett's proposal to increase state education aid by $368.6 million, the majority of school districts that responded to the survey—about 80 percent—said they still planned to raise local taxes in the upcoming school year. The share of local taxes will comprise about 60 percent of school districts' overall budgets in the next academic year, according to respondents.  

To deal with the cuts, districts have increased class sizes, cut or consolidated transportation, and  left staff positions unfilled.

 Among the key findings:

  • More than half of the districts said they planned to reduce or eliminate at least 370 academic programs in the upcoming school year—on top of 783 program cuts in the 2010-11 academic year.
  • More than a third said they'd have to charge for some extracurricular or athletic programs, or reduce or cut them altogether.
  • Sixty-four percent of all districts have increased class size since 2010-11. 

The full report can be found here. 

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