Lehigh Valley

Local school districts plagued by ongoing budget problems

Local school districts plagued by ongoing budget problems

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - The Allentown School District has signed off on a preliminary plan to cut 100 jobs, including 74 teachers, but budget problems are not unique to Allentown.

The question is, why do they keep happening? It's a patchwork of issues that are unique to each district.

Locally, districts said they will be better able to deal with their issues if the state changes it ways.

It's not unusual to hear of deep cuts in Pennsylvania's school district budgets. Allentown may lay off 100 people, Easton 35, and Bethlehem is also considering cuts.

The reasons for budget shortfalls locally include less revenue, pension costs, charter schools and capital expenditures.

Allentown School Board Director Charlie Thiel said it's also a matter of state laws regarding funding being inequitable and outdated.

"I mean, some of these laws come from 1949 education our economy our government, so much has changed since 1949 and some of these laws are just outdated," said Thiel.

Allentown and Easton school boards are among many across the state that have  passed resolutions asking state lawmakers to change funding laws. Pa. Sen. Pat Browne said lawmakers see the disparity in funding among districts.

Browne said the laws regarding special education funding have already been changed.

"Because of the success of that both chambers are advancing forward similar bills to establish a commission on basic ed funding that I believe that will be done in the next month," said Browne.

Browne said right now there's no funding formula for basic education. He said while Allentown is struggling with equity issues in the last 15 years, it has received the highest increase in funding in the state.

He said lawmakers can only do so much and districts will have to continue utilizing cost cutting and revenue generating efforts.

One shot in the arm for Allentown will be the downtown developments. Thiel said this year alone, the district should get about $3 million from it.

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