PA State Budget Impasse

The Keystone State Education Coalition maintains a blog that discusses current topics related to the PA state budget impasse. With no state budget, schools have not received the additional funding that they rely on to operate. Schools are beginning to make plans for potential closure. Pensions and reimbursement for students that attend charter schools are mentioned as big contributors to the financial crisis in many districts.

As a teacher in Pennsylvania, I am concerned with how the budget impasse will impact my future in education and specifically, how the public views teachers. Unfortunately, I’ve seen many people talking negatively about teachers in the last few years. Every time that a district raises taxes, constituents are asked to question the importance of education and the role of teachers. Several districts throughout the Lehigh Valley, where I work, have recently negotiated new contracts for their teachers. It was upsetting to read some of the reaction to the negotiations from taxpaying members of those districts. I fear that the public does not understand the role and responsibilities of a teacher and with schools considering taking loans to keep their doors open until the budget impasse is resolved, I fear a backlash against teachers.

The question is… Does the public understand the roles and responsibilities of teachers or will their be a backlash if school districts begin to take loans and/or raise taxes significantly to make up for the lack of state funding?

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19 thoughts on “PA State Budget Impasse

  1. I’m blogging on behalf of PA teachers whose state has not passed a budget in over a year. This is a disgrace. We voted in a new governor of PA last year and I had high hopes for a change in support of education and more importantly- increased funding for our school districts. Teacher unions contributed over a million dollars to Gov. Wolf’s election campaign, and now he wants to reward them with a multibillion-dollar payback on the taxpayers’ dime.

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  2. You’ve hit a nerve with me on this one. I have had intense debates and upsetting moments, even with people who are close to me, about this topic. My uncles, my best friends and my parents have all made comments over the years that prove they clearly do not understand the roles responsibilities of teachers. One of them actually commented to me about pay specifically and said he could not believe how much the highest level of teachers get paid in my district…he wishes he had that job. I’d like to take him up on that offer and see how it goes 🙂
    I’m sure many people have heard the story about someone saying teachers should be paid like babysitters. The story teller went on to say that we are so much more but, sure, let’s calculate the pay of a teacher based off of that theory. Our pay would be exponentially higher if based on that theory. This story was based on an hourly rate so the “weekends, holidays, and summers off” that people worry about was factored in.
    I truly don’t’ think I have ever heard a non-educator say, “I understand why the district needs to raise taxes” or “These teachers need to be appreciated and compensated.” I teach in a district that is fairly well off so I know that many districts are seeing the impacts of lack of funding way more than we are and I’m not sure how some of them are making it. Unfortunately, for all districts, the backlashes seem to have always been around.

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    1. As a teacher, it should hit a nerve. I have friends that have comments like, “well, you are JUST a teacher”. I do agree that the general public is unaware of exactly what goes on in schools. Most people know school from their own experiences but they don’t get the benefit of seeing the overall view that we get as teachers. I do think that advocacy on behalf of the teachers will be a very important task in the near future.

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  3. I believe 100% there will be a backlash, it just depends on where that blame will fall. I believe this is where our districts and unions are going to have to come in and educate the taxpayers of the roles and responsibilities of a teacher. More specifically, it is imperative, especially in this day in age, to document everything. I know any success that a child has had where a teacher, or our school, has had a hand in helping we document and publish it every month in our board meeting notes. Fortunately for us, our district has active members so this type of documentation has saved us a lot of headaches, I believe, in the past.

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    1. I also believe that there will be backlash. Do you think districts and unions are doing enough to advocate for their teachers? Sharing success stories does seem like a good step to improving the view that the general public has of teachers.

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      1. I think it depends on the district. Some unions are large and have strong backing, where others do not. I am fortunate enough to have a strong union where I don’t have to worry as much as others.

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  4. The budget impasse is more of a symptom of the funding system in education being and having been the political football that is kicked and thrown around and leveraged against what political motives are in play for a given group of elected officials. I find it quite unnerving as an educator because, I agree with you, there is a lot of teacher bashing going on and these things fuel the fire.

    First, in the spirit of full disclosure, my district is fortunate in that it is well enough to sustain this hardship and protect the students and teachers from feeling it– for now. I’m thankful for that. A friend of mine who works in a charter school awaiting state funding has huge garbage cans all around her room to collect the water when it rains through the roof! This was from before the budget issue, they voted at her school to work without pay for a while until they could get some emergency funds! Lastly, they won’t be able to provide the paperwork to apply for the funds they need for next year, because those numbers are based on what they received this year- and to date, they are scraping by on next to nothing. This is not right! Who bears the burden there– the students and the teachers.

    I think there is a quiet backlash happening by would-be teachers. In this article published in Lancaster Co.
    http://lancasteronline.com/news/local/lancaster-county-will-feel-shortage-of-classroom-teachers-in-less/article_05eb63e2-d741-11e5-9f04-7b9f5acbc340.html
    It gives a statistic that since 2012-13 school year to 2014-2015 graduation certifications awarded by the state of PA were down 62%. It’s also clear that there is a substitute shortage crisis by what I see in our school and from colleagues in other districts.

    Maybe many good teachers are simply saying no to becoming a teacher because years of casting teachers in a negative light has leaked into their subconscious and telling them to go a different way.

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  5. Hi Matthew,
    Thank you for posting about this very important topic. I think that there most definitely be backlash towards teachers. Most of the public in school districts are not well-educated and are quick to blame administrators and teachers for a multitude of issues. I think it is the school district’s responsibility as well as the public relations department to educate parents and the public on these types of issues. I have a neighbor who despises having to pay all of these taxes to teachers and the school. The funny thing is that his daughter is a teacher, so I am not sure why he has so much hatred towards public education.

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  6. I have always felt that we, “USA” do not put enough value on education, and it is the first budget that is cut, when the state or the feds hand out money. When lawmakers cut the education budget what they forget is that the student’s studying today are the future of this country and we need to put more value on the education of our children.

    I don’t think we value our teachers as we should and that shows in their pay and benefits. We need to stop paying lawmakers big pay raises and put that money towards education and the teachers salaries and the future of the education system.

    We have our values backwards. Lawmakers value their raise more than the future of this country, we need to value the future of this country more that the pockets of the lawmakers.

    I don’t think people understand the value of a good education because no one wants to more money in taxes, but they do want their children to have the best education, yet no one wants to pay for it.

    This topic just makes me sad or mad or both. Because I think a Good Education should be more affordable to all people no matter what age they are.

    I wish I had a good answer to this question but it is a had topic discus because it is not easy to solve this issue. It has to start at the top and that will never happen in our life time. I pray it would but I don’t think so.

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  7. It appears that many of us agree that this is a major issue right now and that generally, the public doesn’t support teachers or understand what teaching involves. The question is, what can we do about it? Encourage our unions to support us? Should we share more about our daily activities with others so they understand how much teachers actually do?

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  8. The parents should have to follow the teachers around for a week or two just to see what a teacher goes through daily. Taking a long walk in someone else shoes should help parents to understand what a teacher goes through daily.

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  9. Everyone thinks that they understand teachers because they have all been to school. It is easy to sit back and judge teachers because many people look at them almost as THEIR employees. It is incredibly unfortunate. What other profession would we expect someone to work and never receive even a cost of living increase? We have summers “off”. True, but how often do we attend a workshop or prepare lesson plans during the summer? A lot! What other job purchases their own supplies out of their pockets? it is just sad that teachers are treated with such little value when these people spend more time with our children than a lot of parents do.

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    1. Did you ever realize everything that teachers did when you were a student? I often sit down now and think about my time in high school. I had no idea about any of the stuff that was going on in the building that teachers were involved in.

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  10. Hi Matthew,
    Thanks for posting this! This is definitely a hot topic with teachers. My husband is a teacher as well, and we do often feel that because all people have been part of a school in their childhood and beyond that they can say whatever they want about education and teachers. I absolutely agree with everyone that posted so far, that please do not judge until you’ve walked in my shoes. If parents, tax payers, the public, any of them spent even a day in our classrooms, they would have a different outlook. I always say to my husband that our clients are human beings. We are not working with devices or software, we have living, breathing people that we work with every day. We have to be “on” the whole time and be ready for whatever they need from us. I do think there will be a backlash and to answer your question, I do think that the public does not support teachers. I think they would if they spent time in our classrooms, but until then, I do not think they do. And maybe that is a solution, having parents, the public, whomever visit the classroom and see what we do. I have no idea how that would play out, but we all know one day could change their outlook on us and what we do. I always try to remind my husband and myself that we are making a difference in the world. We may not find out our footprint for months, years, or possibly ever. But we have to believe we are doing good work and helping others and I think that is why all of us got into this career in the first place!

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  11. Unfortunately, I don’t believe the bulk of the public understands the roles and responsibilities of teachers (excluding those with close family members/friends who work in education and may have some sort of personal investment). I work in a very conservative district in which the sentiment is strongly anti-community college and we constantly hear the shockingly negative public rhetoric that prevails in the area, as the community members are quite active at our monthly board meetings. On top of the seemingly never-ending state issues, my school is locked in a battle with the locals, who strongly feel it is a total waste of taxpayer dollars to support anything having to do with the college (there’s quite a bit of “My kids don’t go there, so why should I have to sacrifice?” and “The teachers make far too much money”). From what they say, it’s safe to assume they really have no real understanding of our roles and responsibilities – sometimes, it almost seems as though they view us as nothing more than glorified babysitters.

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  12. Like Starr wrote, only those close to us know how much we do and how “on” we need to be not only during the work day, but also after hours to answer questions, write letters of recommendation, plan engaging lessons, take part in professional development through online courses ;), …and the list goes on. Even my brother-in-law, who is a head of maintenance at a school district, thinks it’s funny (and probably true) to make pot shots at how much time teachers have off.

    But in the end, the political woes here in Pennsylvania go far beyond education. For a person with a handicapped brother, the impact is felt especially in reduced services for those who need it most. If the politicians could only see the effect of their actions on a more personal level, there might be more collaboration and compromise to find a solution.

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  13. Hi Matthew,
    I think you raise a great question here. Being a teacher, sometimes family, friends, and acquaintances will jokingly throw jabs at me about this very topic. I believe this is because they really aren’t educated on the severity of the whole state budget impasse. I think a negative connotation is sometimes given off by the media about school districts and this causes people to jump to conclusions. I recently saw in the newspaper that here in the Lehigh Valley that one particular school district has started taking out loans and their has been a backlash in terms of the community. I feel that administrators and unions need to be proactive in their approach to educate the community on this important matter.

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