The West Chester School District Director of Business Affairs Dr. Suzanne Moore projects that the district will receive an extra $1.2 million in funding from the state this year; however, she remains “pretty pessimistic about the future.”
“My fear is that this block grant will no longer be based on a percentage of cost,” Dr. Moore said. “Every year the amount of money we get from the state would be at the discretion of the governor or the state legislature.”
In previous years the district received funds from the state based on a formula that factored in cost.
In an extremely simplified form that I am making up on the spot for the sake of clarity, if the district spent $10 per student on transportation, and the state provided 50 percent of that cost, the district would receive five dollars per student.
In the next year, if the district spent $12 per student, the state would reimburse the district at a rate of six dollars per student.
The state also used to give out grants from separate funds. These grants would go towards specific items like transportation, social security and special education.
This year the state has lumped all of those funds into one block grant called a “Student Achievement Education Block Grant.”
Dr. Moore is concerned that this block grant will no longer be tied to a district’s actual costs, but instead will become a lump sum dolled out every year.
As a basis for her fear, Dr. Moore cited what happened to special education funding.
According to Dr. Moore, the government used to pay for the actual cost of special education, but, once the grant became discretionary it eventually froze.
The fear, put simply, is that once public education funding is no longer tied to actual costs there is no legal need by lawmakers to increase those funds.
“From history and based on experience, I’m pretty pessimistic about the future,” Dr. Moore said. “We don’t know how this block grant funding will shake out.”
At Tuesday’s school board property and finance committee meeting Dr. Moore recommended that the board place the $1.2 million windfall in the general fund for now.
“I propose we keep what’s in our forecast model,” Dr. Moore said, suggesting caution as the state legislature still must approve a budget, and that changes are most likely to occur.
“However, in the short-term, this is a very positive outcome,” Dr. Moore said.