Yesterday, the Cry Baby Caucus in the House and Senate threw a temper tantrum after Governor Wolf’s acting Department of Education Secretary Pedro Rivera sent letters to all the school districts across the state asking for spending reports in order to get state money.
And those plans must direct the increase in state funding to one of 14 “evidence-based” options for improving achievement outlined in a letter sent to district superintendents Tuesday by acting state Education Secretary Pedro Rivera.
The list of options includes high-quality early childhood and summer learning programs, and academic and enrichment courses such as music, arts, world languages and library services.
The funds also can be used to restore cut programs and personnel caused by previous state budget cuts, extending the school day or year, reducing class size, intervention for struggling students, curriculum and classroom materials, career and technical education, and college and career counseling.
It’s pretty simple to see what Governor Wolf and Pedro Rivera are asking for. They want all the school districts to file reports that shows where the state’s money will go in those districts. These can go to restoring programs like arts and music that were decimated by the Corbett Cuts and to rehiring teachers, restoring athletic programs and so forth. Watching where the money goes and making sure state money is not being wasted seems….fiscally prudent. But don’t tell that to the Cry Baby Caucus that is Republican Leadership.
In the Senate, Majority Leader Jake Corman, Appropriations Chair Pat Browne, Majority Whip John Gordner, Senate Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati and Education Chair Lloyd Smucker all issued a press release (published below) calling Pedro Rivera’s letter a “political stunt by the Wolf Administration completely disregards the need for the legislative process” that falls into government overreaching its “executive power by mandating that Pennsylvania school districts provide the Department of Education with reporting of how non-appropriated funding would be spent.”
Then it gets better in the House when Mike Turzai and David Reed pile on by questioning Tom Wolf’s “authority to mandate the state’s 500 school districts expend time and resources on a plan to spend what is, thus far, an unfunded budget proposal.”
In the letter, they write:
One of the principle constitutional responsibilities of the General Assembly is the passage of a budget for the Commonwealth each year. The process of constructing a budget is one of developing a vision for the future while setting consistent and realistic priorities. The budget should set forth a spending plan that meets the obligations of our state and focuses on the core functions of government. Most importantly, the final budget is a document developed by two co-equal branches of our government – the executive and legislative branches.
Reading Acting Education Secretary Rivera’s recent letter to the superintendents of our 500 school districts has left question as to the respect for, and commitment to, this constitutional process.
After listening to your inaugural address and preceding your budget address, much like the other 201 members of the House of Representatives, we sat with the anticipation of a new day for Pennsylvania.
Everyone saw this coming, or should have, from a mile away. The Republican Leadership has no interest in governing. These people are obstructionists and their main interest is to obstruct Tom Wolf’s governorship and give him nothing that he campaigned, and won, on.
Senate Leadership Press Release:
The Wolf Administration is overreaching its executive power by mandating that Pennsylvania school districts provide the Department of Education with reporting of how non-appropriated funding would be spent, according to Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25), Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-34), Senate Appropriations Chairman Pat Browne (R-16), Senate Majority Whip John Gordner (R-27) and Senate Education Committee Chairman Lloyd Smucker (R-13).
Senate Republicans took significant issue with a letter sent today to school superintendents by Acting Education Secretary Pedro Rivera that required school districts to submit spending plans for a portion of the suggested increased funding in the Governor’s proposed 2015-16 budget.
This latest political stunt by the Wolf Administration completely disregards the need for the legislative process,” said Senator Scarnati. “Governor Wolf and his Administration are placing a significant burden on our school officials by mandating that they complete these reports for funding, which has not been vetted by the Legislature.”
Senate Republican leaders have been encouraging a sensible approach to planning of school district budgets for the 2015-16 fiscal year, due to massive tax increases needed to support the Governor’s proposed spending plans.
“This letter is concerning for its obvious political posturing,” said Senator Corman. “The influx of money into the schools is based on a mix of many historic tax increases. We clearly don’t have that money in the coffers at this point. In sworn testimony, the Acting Budget Secretary asked that we look at the entire budget as a whole. Yet in this letter, Wolf’s Acting Education Secretary is requiring schools to look at the budget piecemeal and account for spending money the state doesn’t have. Placing this mandate on our schools is premature. Asking the districts to jump through hoops to provide plans for money that is part of a massive proposed overall budget burden is a waste of valuable time and resources that should be dedicated to educating children.”
“We certainly understand the challenges school district administrators and school boards face when appropriating their annual budgets in anticipation of state revenues,” said Senator Browne. “However, it is vital that they use caution in counting on and budgeting for any increases in state funding until an actual education spending bill is approved by the state legislature and signed by the governor. The Senate Appropriations Committee has just begun budget hearings and has yet to even hear testimony from the Acting Secretary of Education. These budget hearings are the first opportunity members have to hear, in more detail, the governor’s proposed budget and ask questions of each department secretary before formulating a thoroughly thought-out plan to both fund education and protect hardworking taxpayers.”
“The Administration seems to want to spend money that has yet to be appropriated,” said Senator Gordner. “I met last week with school superintendents from my area who indicated they plan to budget conservatively and are not counting on receiving the entire increase called for in the Governor’s budget because they recognize that the tax burden to fund such a proposal is not sustainable.”
“We look forward to a vigorous discussion over the next few months about what works to ensure every child in Pennsylvania has the opportunity for a world-class education,” said Senator Smucker. “This process demands a high level of analysis and collaboration. This letter, issued so early in the process, is premature and the antithesis of that spirit of cooperation.”
“Each and every member of the Senate Republican Caucus desires to help provide our students and teachers across Pennsylvania with the resources that they need to learn and succeed,” said Senator Scarnati. “However, we cannot and will not continue to ask more and more from taxpayers without addressing excessive cost drivers and the need for pension reform.”