The nearly 270-day Pennsylvania budget impasse has now ended. Governor Wolf relented, and though he did not sign the budget, he will allow it to stand. It appears that both the Governor and lawmakers realize there are future issues that must be addressed now.
Before we cast our gaze to the future, I propose we survey the wreckage this unfortunate impasse has created.
Our Commonwealth went 270 days without a state budget. For 270 days, schools, nonprofits, and numerous community organizations fretted over funding. For 270 days, organizations were forced to borrow money or make cuts to maintain operations. For 270 days, lines of credit were tapped, creating significant interest expenditures that were not budgeted. For 270 days, the minds of executives and staff members were preoccupied with solving funding issues. For 270 days, teachers and staff members struggled to focus on mission instead of worry.
The 270 days have passed and the political game of chicken is now over. Across PA, many are breathing a sigh of relief. Public schools will finally receive their allotted funding.
Yet, others are left cleaning up the wreckage left by this tornado of reckless irresponsibility. A great degree of damage has been caused that will not be remedied by the passage of a State budget.
Pennsylvania’s two educational tax credit programs, EITC and OSTC, provide a poignant example. These programs provide educational scholarships that make access to high quality educational programs accessible for people who otherwise could not afford them. In the 2014-15 fiscal year, Logos Academy collected and distributed $1,500,000 in scholarships to students in need through this program. Due to the 270-day budget impasse, Logos received only half of last year’s total, roughly $750,000. Half of our anticipated scholarship dollars are gone.
Though our legislators have taken steps to undo the damage, the damage is done. The tax credit program had timelines that needed to be kept. Businesses had deadlines for paying their taxes. Business owners and executives became exasperated by the ‘wait and see’ news we kept hearing out of Harrisburg and opted out of the program. We can only hope they will return next year.
And so, this week, at Logos Academy, we formally launched a 100-day effort to raise $800,000 to fill the financial gap. We granted substantial scholarships to students at the beginning of the year, with the full expectation that funding would be there to fulfill those scholarships. Logos had ten years of history on our side to substantiate this assumption.
The Logos Academy fiscal year closes in less than 100 days on June 30, 2016. In the midst of the impasse, our political leaders have talked at length about students being held hostage. While the damage has been done, we refuse to allow our children to be hurt due to the abject failure of Pennsylvania’s political leaders.
Choices have consequences, sometimes devastating ones. Though this 270-day budget impasse has victimized so many throughout our Commonwealth, we refuse to play the victim role at Logos Academy. We are looking to the faithfulness of God and the generosity of our donor community to step into the financial gap.
Logos Academy is gaining significant momentum. Students are excelling, we will graduate our second class of seniors in May, our growth is both prudent and measured, and we are cautiously considering the expansion needed to house an academic program that is showing great promise.
We will continue to fix our gaze toward securing a bright and hopeful future for our students, but in the next 100 days, we must clean up the mess created by these unfortunate 270 days.