Fast Facts about the 2012-13 Pennsylvania Budget

The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center has released several briefs on the 2012-13 PA budget, including their analysis on the cuts, credits and potential impact of the budget on Pennsylvania residents.  Budget highlights:

  • Final budget total amount is $27.656 billion (an increase of $517 million compared to Governor Corbett’s earlier proposal).
  •  Overall, General Fund spending was down 1.4 percent from 2010-11. Notable spending cuts include,  classroom education (a decrease of 9.6 percent), labor and industry (a decrease of 13.5 percent), community and economic development (a decrease of 18.5 percent) and environment (decrease of 20.4 percent).
  • Other areas of major cuts: human services (specifically mental health, homeless assistance), higher education and the end of the General Assistance Program – a program that gave temporary support to over 68,000 Pennsylvanians who were sick or disabled.

Visit The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center website for  analysis and commentary on the 2012-13 budget and the latest news on policy in Pennsylvania.

PA Schools Plan to Reduce or Eliminate Art, Music, Kindergarten, Summer School & Tutoring to Face Funding Cuts

Data from a spring 2012 survey of school districts across the Commonwealth indicate increased class sizes, the possible elimination of art, music and gym classes as well as field trips, and deep cuts to tutoring programs and summer school as the result of  an $810 million reduction in state funding.   Reductions in local funds coupled with these cuts at the state level and increased health care and retirement costs have already resulted in staff and teacher wage freezes and furloughs in many districts, but now educational programming is on the chopping block.

The assessment, conducted the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA) and the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO) notes that 19 percent of the responding districts plan to reduce or end early childhood education programming, including Kindergarten.  This is disturbing news as not only does early childhood education result in improved educational outcomes and is linked to future employability and wage earning potential; it is also an industry that employs tens of thousands of people per state and generates impressive gross revenue figures.

Governor Corbett has suggested that districts use their reserves to avoid cutting programs or academic subjects in the upcoming year. No word on how that tactic ensures that those same cuts will be not made once the “emergency” reserves (already being used by some districts) are gone.

A Look Back at Head Start

Well into its fifth decade of operation, Head Start provides early childhood education opportunities for preschool age children from low-income families as well as early intervention for infants, toddlers and expectant mothers in communities across the nation.  A recent policy brief from CLASPPutting Children and Families First – Head Start Programs in 2010,  examines program data to ascertain the impact of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) fund on the program as well as discuss program trends from the late 1990’s through 2010.

Report  highlights include:

  •  In 2010, of the more than 1.1 million children served by Head Start, 86 percent were between the ages of 3-5; and 14 percent  birth through age 2 were served through the Early Head start program.
  •  In 2010, 40 percent of Head Starts participants were white, 29 percent African American, 8 percent reported themselves biracial or multiracial, 4 percent were American Indian or Alaska Native, 2 percent Asian and 1 percent Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.  Eleven percent reported their race as “other. ”  Thirty-six percent of all participants reported being of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity.
  •  In 2010, over half of the families involved in Head Start (57 percent) were headed by a single parent.  In nearly ¾ of Head Start families (72 percent), neither parent had achieved an education level above a high school degree or general equivalency degree (GED).
  •  In 2010, 12 percent of Head Start children were diagnosed as having a disability.
  •  In 2010, 76 percent of Head Start teachers had an associate degree or higher, an increase from the 51 percent in 2002.

The brief contains additional data on program services and families, as well as comparisons of data points over the past decade.  CLASP also has a new data tool to assist decision makers and policy wonks with assessing their state’s needs around early childhood education. The tool is accessible through the CLASP website resource center.

How Much are Prisons Really Costing Taxpayers?

Since it is budget time again in the Commonwealth, I wanted to post about an interesting fiscal analysis of correctional institutions that I came across recently.  The Vera Institute of Justice and the Pew Center on the States’ Public Safety Performance Project  collaborated to identify the true financial cost of state prisons to tax payers, not just that included departmental budgets.  The 2012 report, Price of Prisons What Incarceration Costs Taxpayers by Christian Henrichson and Ruth Delaney, details their findings on the distribution of prison costs across various agencies and the true cost to taxpayers.

The researchers developed a methodology to capture three kinds of costs, administrative, inmate services (paid for from outside funding streams) and pension and retiree health care plans. They also identified numerous costs that fell outside of corrections budgets yet fell to the taxpayer, concluding that prisons cost taxpayers about 14 percent more than the expenditures listed in the annual budgets represent.

The study lists Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections as spending over 1 and a half billion dollars in the 2010 prison budget, with an additional $463.8 million (over 22.5 percent) in related costs outside the corrections budget.  A breakdown of the 2010 budget (and not-in-the-budget) expenditure data from the 40 states that participated in the study is also available online via the Vera Institute of Justice website.