The parents of Catholic school students understand that tough economic times require all of us to make the most of limited resources. We also understand that supporting a child’s education now is an investment in the well-being of tomorrow’s economy. As you weigh the difficult decisions about how Pennsylvania will spend our limited education resources, please remember that non-public school students deserve the same fair chance to succeed. Three budget line items benefit nonpublic school students: Textbooks, Materials and Equipment, Services to Nonpublic Schools and technology funding through Link-to-Learn.
In the past, appropriations for public and nonpublic schoolchildren moved at a similar percentage rate. This long-standing agreement was always honored, but in the 2006 budget cycle, the increase in the annual state budget appropriation for nonpublic school line items was lower than that for the state’s public school subsidy. The public school subsidy increased by 6.5%, while the appropriations for nonpublic school line items increased by 5.87%. While that differential was not in itself enormous, its effect is compounded in future years because future percentage increases are applied to a lower base amount.
Again, in the 2008-2009 budget the public school subsidy increased by 5.5%, a substantially greater increase than the nonpublic school student appropriations, which each increased by only 3%. To make matters worse, in the middle of the budget year, the nonpublic school appropriations were unilaterally decreased further.
This year’s proposed budget (2009-2010) the disparity grows even wider. The public school subsidy is proposed to increase by 5.7%, a substantially greater increase than the nonpublic appropriations for textbooks, materials, equipment and services, which are proposed to decrease by .02%.
Nonpublic school students are completely left out of technology funding because their schools cannot participate in the Classrooms for the Future program. To provide equal opportunities for technology learning, nonpublic schoolchildren should receive their proportionate share (13.1%) of technology through an appropriation to the Link-to-Learn program that is still state law but currently receives no funding.
Thus from 2005 to 2008, actual nonpublic school student line item appropriations increased by $9,187,180 (11.63%). During that same period, the basic public school subsidy increased by $733,958,000 (16.34%). Technology funding went from a fair share of Link-to-Learn funding to zero.
Once again, as you weigh the difficult decisions about the education budget, please consider treating Pennsylvania’s non-public schoolchildren equally. Thank you.
Robert J. O’Hara, Jr.