A survey of Pennsylvania superintendents and school business officials offers a bleak portrait of the state of education in the commonwealth.
With mandated costs growing faster than revenues, districts across the state report that they are planning to cut staff, increase class sizes, and curtail programs and extracurriculars — all while hiking local property taxes.
The Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA) and Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO) started conducting surveys of their members in 2010-11, as a way to document the effects of budget cuts.
This year's survey offered "the worst outlook."
"No one imagined that in all this time state policymakers would still have failed to take meaningful action to curb growing expenses or that the state share of school funding would still be declining," said the report. "No one imagined that our school leaders would be losing confidence in state policy makers and students would still be losing learning opportunities."
Seventy-one percent of Pennsylvania's 500 school districts participated in the survey — at least one from every county. The student demographics of the participating districts mirror the state as a whole.
School officials say cuts and tax hikes are necessary to counter the fact that a growing share of their budgets are being eaten by mandated expenses.
"All districts' projected increases in mandated expenses for pensions (100 percent), health care (84 percent), special education (88 percent), and charter schools (77 percent), higher in every category than in previous reports," said the study.