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HARRISBURG (Aug. 27, 2014) – Gov. Tom Corbett's school funding cuts have hit Pennsylvania's poorest school districts and its neediest students hardest, with larger classes and lower achievement as measured by standardized test scores.
Those are some of the key findings of a new research report released today by the Pennsylvania State Education Association, the state's largest school employee union.
The report, "Budget cuts, student poverty, and test scores: Examining the evidence," available on PSEA's website, relies on data from the Pennsylvania Department of Education to examine the effects of school funding cuts since 2011.
“The school funding crisis is hurting every school district and every student in Pennsylvania, but the impact on our poorest districts and the students they serve is just devastating,” said PSEA President Michael Crossey. “Poor school districts rely on state funding the most and have the least ability to replace it with local revenues. Depriving students in those districts of needed resources is exactly the opposite of what we should be doing.”
According to PSEA's new report:
State funding cuts to the most impoverished school districts averaged more than three times the size of the cuts for districts with the lowest average child poverty.
The ratio of students to teachers increased more among the districts with higher poverty rates than it did among those with lower rates.
Reading scores from the state-mandated Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) in grades 3 to 6 dropped across all school districts; however, the decline was steepest among the most impoverished districts.
PSSA math scores in grades 3 to 6 also dropped across all school districts, with an even steeper decline among poorer districts.
In third-grade reading, scores declined across all school districts, with the greatest declines in the poorest districts.
These findings are consistent with other research showing school funding cuts increased in magnitude along with school poverty.
PSSA test scores are only one indicator of student achievement, but they are an important one, Crossey noted. Policymakers should take note of this decline in PSSA scores and respond with policies that will lift student achievement.
PSEA's new report confirms findings from research from other organizations, suggesting that none of Pennsylvania's main educational indicators have been moving in the right direction under Gov. Corbett.
“Pennsylvania public schools are among the best in the nation, but Gov. Corbett's school funding cuts are starting to undermine the great progress we have made,” Crossey said. “Pennsylvania desperately needs new leadership in Harrisburg to ensure every student continues to get a high-quality public education.”
Crossey was a special education teacher in the Keystone Oaks School District. An affiliate of the National Education Association, PSEA represents approximately 180,000 future, active and retired teachers and school employees, and health care workers in Pennsylvania.