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With Budget Veto, Pa. Schools Get Emergency Funding, But Little Certainty

With Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf's line-item veto of a proposed $30.26 billion state spending budget Tuesday, the state's 500 school districts won't get a fix for a broken school funding formula and a ballooning pension crisis any time soon. But Wolf did provide the state's very-frustrated district leaders with a slight reprieve by releasing to them six months worth of emergency funding. 

The budget standoff in the Keystone State, which began in July, is the longest in the state's history and has held up millions of dollars meant for education and other state services.  

School districts have borrowed millions of dollars, laid off teachers and shuttered after-school programs to keep their schools doors open. (I wrote about this in November.)  Since then, the problem has only gotten worse. Schools have now borrowed an estimated total of $900 million. The emergency funding amounts to $23 billion.  

In recent weeks, several school districts, including Philadelphia's, have threatened to close school after the winter break. District officials there backed off that claim on Dec. 30.  

"I don't want to hold the children of Pennsylvania hostage for the inability of folks here in Harrisburg to get the job done," Wolf said.  

In a blunt speech  Tuesday, Wolf, a Democrat, said the latest proposed budget doesn't add up, will result in future budget deficits and cuts $95 million from the state's schools. He vetoed the vast majority of it and described it as "garbage." 

Wolf instead wants a budget that he negotiated with the state's senators earlier this month that calls for $30.8 billion in spending, raises sales taxes and includes $350 million more in education spending. 

But House Republicans didn't agree with several parts of the budget. 

With yesterday's veto, the legislators will go back to the drawing table—Wolf has asked them to interrupt their Christmas vacation to send him a budget he will approve. 

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