SENATE ADOPTS FUMO AMENDMENT BOOSTING EDUCATION FUNDING
HARRISBURG, May 1, 2002 Ė The state Senate early this morning adopted an amendment that would provide substantial increases in state aid to school districts across the commonwealth, except Philadelphia, in the next fiscal year. It would also require districts to cut property taxes.
The provision, sponsored by state Senator Vincent J. Fumo (D-Philadelphia,) was attached by a vote of 37-12 to Senate Bill 5, which contains the 2002-03 state budget. If approved, Senate Bill 5 would move to the House for consideration.
As originally drafted, Fumoís amendment provided a 10.7 percent increase for all school districts in the state, amounting to $424 million. He offered the amendment in response to Governor Mark Schweikerís original budget proposal, which provided an increase of $75 million, or 10.7 percent, for the Philadelphia School District, but only 1 percent for the other 500 school districts combined.
"I didnít think it was fair. There are problems with education throughout the commonwealth," Fumo said during debate on the Senate floor. "In a large number of areas, local districts have had to raise their millage and raise their taxes to keep pace with two things, not only inflation, but also the decreasing percentage of aid to education that we give them."
Before being adopted, however, the amendment was altered through another measure offered by Republican Charles Dent of Allentown. It prohibited any increase for Philadelphia next year, and distributed the $75 million that the governor had targeted for Philadelphia among all other school districts, meaning those districts would see their funding boosted by more than 12 percent.
Fumo voted for the revised version of his amendment despite the cut to Philadelphia, he said, because he is confident that the governor will eventually honor the commitment that he made to provide the additional $75 million as part of the state takeover of Philadelphia schools.
Meanwhile, Fumo said he considered it crucial to provide other schools in Pennsylvania with more education funding, and to provide property tax relief for citizens throughout the commonwealth.
Under the Fumo measure, school districts would have to use a little less than half of the new funding to cut property taxes for their residents next year.
To pay for the education funding increases, the Fumo amendment cut from the governorís proposed budget $228 million in spending on computers and $108 million in spending from the Department of Community and Economic Development, combined with the $90 million of increased funding already proposed.
"I think bureaucrats can wait a year for their new computers, but I donít think children can wait a year for us to get our act together on education," Fumo said. "For the past eight years, Republicans have been running state government in the House, the Senate and the governorís office. And throughout this commonwealth, we have been short-changing school districts while local property taxes keep going up."