Highlights from the Community Conversation about Big Spring Public Schools

We were honored to join more than 30 Big Spring community members, parents and teachers along with BSSD Superintendent Mr. Richard Fry, and BSSD teacher, Scott Penner, in a community conversation about the Big Spring public schools.

Themes that emerged in the discussion were the lack of adequate state funding for the Big Spring School District, which leads to a heavy reliance on local taxpayers to fund the schools, and the challenges school districts face educating today’s students while complying with abundance of state mandates.

A few facts from the discussion:

  • In the 1970s the state of PA provided BSSD with funding to cover about 50% of what it cost to educate students. Today that number has dropped to just 38% and local taxpayers are making up the difference.
  • State funding to schools is not allocated using a fair, transparent, or accurate formula. Instead, state funding is based on deals legislators cut behind closed doors. Read about this here.
  • BSSD loses $4.4 million in local tax revenue each year because 17% of the land in BSSD cannot be taxed as it is part of the state Clean and Green program. The state of PA mandates that these lands not be taxed, but does not provide compensation to the school district to offset the loss of these funds.
  • In 2005 17% of students attending BSSD received free/reduced lunch. Today 37% of students in BSSD receive free/reduced lunch, including 50% of the incoming kindergartners.
  • In spite of inadequate state funding and students who are carrying heavy burdens as the result of living in poverty, the proficiency rates on standardized test scores in BSSD have almost doubled in recent years.
  • Teachers and the BSSD  administration are committed to ensuring  that ALL BSSD students will receive the educational opportunities they need to be college or career ready when they graduate.

 Education Matters in the Cumberland Valley highlighted the following cuts in STATE funding since 2011, which have resulted in higher property taxes for home and business owners and fewer learning opportunities for BSSD students. Participants were urged to contact their state legislators and Governor Corbett here and to talk to their friends and neighbors about these issues. Only changes in STATE policy will reduce the reliance on local property taxes to fund BSSD. Please see our resource sheet for more information: BSSD Take Action

Cuts in STATE Funding from BSSD since 2011 (these cuts were unrelated to the disappearance of federal stimulus dollars).

Charter School Reimbursement Accountability Block Grant Moratorium on PlanCon since 2010 State funds eliminated or reduced since Corbett took office
– $544,843 -$793,146 -$6,000 thru 2014 – $1.5 M Total if PlanCon payments are not reinstated -$1,343,989

Charter School Reimbursement was ELIMINATED. In 2011 Governor Corbett and state legislators eliminated the 30% state reimbursement to school districts for charter school payments. This eliminated $544,843 in state funding to BSSD over three years.

 The Accountability Block Grant was SLASHED from $435,474 in 2010-2011 to just $171,093 in 2011-2012. Funding has remained level.  Over three years this is a loss of $793,146.

 The Commonwealth broke its promise to provide reimbursement payments for construction projects.  Since 2010, local taxpayers have paid $6,000 in construction costs that had been promised to BSSD through the PlanCon program. The total cost to taxpayers if the PlanCon promise is not kept will be $1.5 million.

 To ensure that students in BSSD will continue to receive the educational opportunities they need to be successful after they graduate AND to decrease the reliance on property taxes to fund BSSD, it is imperative that BSSD community members talk to their friends and neighbors about these issues and call their legislators to demand adequate and fair state funding for the Big Spring School District. Please contact Susan at educationmattersinthecv@gmail.com  with any questions or concerns or to learn how to get more involved in supporting public schools!

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