The state may come to the rescue of Erie School District. Lawmakers are looking into a one time, $5 million payment to the district to avoid more cuts or an unbalanced budget.
Representative Flo Fabrizio has proposed a bill that would give Erie the money it needs to stay afloat.
A Pennsylvania school district not in recover has never passed an unbalanced budget. Representative Fabrizio is hoping to keep Erie from being the first, especially when that unbalanced budget could come with consequences.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education said in a statement, “The Department of Education knows these are unprecedented times, and that there are school districts across Pennsylvania that are still reeling from the budget cuts made years ago. The School Code requires districts to pass and submit a balanced budget to the Department. The School Code also outlines possible repercussions for not doing so, including the withholding of subsidy. Restoring education funding has been a hallmark of Governor Wolf’s agenda, and he has fought tirelessly to aid districts across the commonwealth and to reinvest in our schools and students.”
Representative Fabrizio says he is in the process of negotiating in Harrisburg to get the bill moving.
“I can’t make any promises, but we are hopeful that we can do that,” Fabrizio says.
Governor Wolf’s office says it is not unprecedented to give one time payments to school districts. In fact, the state just passed one time payments to what they call two of the most financially distressed districts in the state, Chester Upland and Wilkinsburg.
The $5 million payment would only solve the districts’ problems for the 2016-2017 school year. The district’s future lies in Governor Wolf’s hands.
The state house and senate have both passed the fair funding formula. Governor Wolf says he will sign it as soon as he can.
Until now Pennsylvania was one of only three states in the country that did not have a fair funding formula.
“Now we are going to be making sure that education dollars are put through this formula, that takes into account each districts’ unique needs,” Jeffrey Sheridan, press secretary for Governor Wolf said.
“From here on in, Erie School District will be getting a fair appropriation and fair allotment from the state,” Fabrizio said.
Both the Governor and Fabrizio admit there is still a lot of work to do for the fair funding formula to truly be fair.
Erie school district won’t know how much additional money in funding they will receive until the state’s 2016-2017 budget is finished.
Fabrizio is continuing to work with both parties on the $5 million bill.