Budget woes are forcing school districts throughout Pennsylvania to increase class size, eliminate tutoring programs, slash summer school, cut full-day kindergarten, and shed staff, spokesmen for business officials and school administrators said Thursday.
"The impact of the budget cuts is severe and will deeply impact the options for students throughout the state," said Jim Buckheit, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators. "There will be fewer programs, fewer teachers, and larger class sizes. It's the wrong answer for Pennsylvania's students."
An Inquirer survey of area districts last week showed similar results, with about nine in 10 responding districts saying they planned to eliminate jobs; all but a handful planned on tax increases.
The state survey, taken in April, drew responses from just over half of the state's 500 school districts; their names were not released.
No school district plans are yet final; some will change before the June 30 deadline of final budgets, especially if some of Gov. Corbett's proposed $1.1 billion in public school cuts are rescinded. But the answers give a good indication of where school districts are headed.
The survey of business and school administrators found that 71 percent expected to cut instructional programs in the 2011-12 school year. Class sizes are expected to increase in 86 percent of districts because of cuts in instructional staff. Elective courses might be trimmed in 71 percent of districts that responded. And 64 percent plan to eliminate or reduce tutoring, while 51 percent might drop summer school.
Also, 31 percent of districts plan on ending full-day kindergarten, in most cases shrinking it to half-day. And three-fourths - nearly 10 times this year's percentage - plan to reduce or eliminate extracurricular activities, including sports programs. More than a quarter are considering closing schools next year to reduce costs.
Employment cuts through attrition are expected in more than 90 percent of the responding districts. In addition, two-thirds plan to lay off instructional staff, ranging from teachers to librarians and reading or math specialists. And 70 percent plan to lay off noninstructional personnel.
A larger percentage of schools this year than last expect to have to make cuts, Buckheit said. For example, 17 percent of districts increased class size this year, but about five times that number plan to next year.
An Inquirer survey of the 63 school districts in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties found that 36 of the 41 districts that responded to a question about staffing cuts said they planned to reduce staff, by a total of about 950. In addition, Philadelphia plans on thousands of staff reductions.
Of the 49 districts that submitted information about tax increases, 43 - about 88 percent - planned to raise taxes next year, some by three or four times next year's education inflation rate, set by the state at 1.4 percent. Statewide, the survey found that just over 22 percent of districts plan to keep taxes at this year's levels.