EDITORIAL: York City schools' budget must be realistic

York Dispatch

Hold your horses, York City schools.

We think it's great that Gov. Tom Wolf has budgeted an additional $5.6 million for the York City School District next year.

That amount of cash could mean so much to the struggling district, including bringing back programs and personnel lost years ago in the continuing fight to balance a budget with the city's low tax base and students leaving for charter schools.

Superintendent Eric Holmes wants the state to see how important the money is to help the district get back on track and accomplish the goals set out in its improvement plan.

So Holmes has created a budget showing exactly what he wants to do with that $68.6 million from the state.

Along with continuing the academic and behavioral intervention programs, the cyber school, the high school performing arts program and the after-school tutoring program, he wants to expand the Communities in Schools program and add social workers and behavior specialists in each building, expand guidance services and career counseling as well as pre-K classrooms and add 13 staffers just for ninth-grade instruction.

He also wants to expand art, music and physical education at each K-8 school, add foreign-language classes for middle schoolers, expand gifted education and add tech support at the high school, five new school police officers and bilingual administrative services.

That's a really long list, and they're all great ideas.

But let's be real: Wolf's budget isn't going to pass the Legislature as written.

This is the Democrat's first budget, and he's handed it over to two houses controlled by Republicans.

The Legislature has changed little since last year. There's little hope the lawmakers will make the sweeping changes to the tax structure and school funding that Wolf has called for.

To think that York City schools will see all of that money is frankly naive.

And then there's the question of timing.

The district has to pass a balanced budget before June 30. To do that, it needs to take several meetings to introduce a preliminary budget, give the public a chance to look at it and respond, and then discuss again and finally pass it. It takes a couple of months.

The state Legislature is also supposed to pass a balanced budget by June 30. But we all know Harrisburg lawmakers take their time about it. It hasn't been that long since the Legislature waited until October to pass a budget.

In the meantime, school districts have to guess how much money they'll get from the state and budget from there.

The students and residents of York City would be better served with a more realistic budget that ensures programs currently in the schools will remain and looks to make gradual changes. If that extra money by some miracle appears, you've got that nice list ready to implement.

So yes, Dr. Holmes, continue to think about what's important to your students and the city and make plans for improving your schools as much as possible.

But don't get everyone's hopes up with dreams that won't become reality.