The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2009 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
Pennsylvania earned the distinction in 2009 of being the state with the longest budget impasse. It finally brought in a signed budget more than three months late, on Oct. 9. The delay held up two rounds of subsidy payments to districts, worth $1.3 billion.
In the end, Gov. Edward G. Rendell signed a $27.8 billion fiscal 2010 spending plan, less than the $29 billion he had proposed, and $524 million less than the previous year’s plan. It included a 5.7 percent boost to the basic education subsidy, however, made possible by about $655 million in federal support from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The subsidy, the largest piece of the state’s precollegiate funding picture, increased by $300 million, to $5.5 billion. Total precollegiate spending rose 3 percent, to $9.3 billion.
|Gov. Edward G. Rendell (D)|
Gov. Rendell, a Democrat, had made the basic-subsidy increase a precondition of any budget deal, since it is a key part of Pennsylvania’s new funding formula. The weighted funding formula was to be phased in over six years, with a $430 million increase in the basic education subsidy planned for its second year, fiscal 2010. But budgetary realities forced a smaller increase of $300 million.
In the final budget deal, the governor preserved level funding for his signature early-childhood programs, but had to give up others, such as classroom-technology and tutoring programs. The budget also drained the state’s $755 million “rainy day” fund.
Part of the delay in the budget was due to a dispute between the governor and Republicans in the legislature, who wanted to use a greater share of federal stimulus funding and a lesser share of the rainy-day fund than Gov. Rendell did to plug budget gaps.
Pennsylvania ended a two-year battle over its new high school exams in 2009. The state board of education and an independent review panel approved the phase-in of 10 end-of-course tests, and decided that they will count for one-third of students course grades, but did not require students to pass them to graduate. To make graduation decisions, districts can use the Keystone Exams or substitute Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, or locally designed tests.
A version of this article appeared in the January 06, 2010 edition of Education Week as Stimulus Allows Hike in Education Subsidy