Study claims Pa. schools don’t need COVID-19 relief money, local districts pushing back

PITTSBURGH — The $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill looks to help schools deal with the pandemic, but how much help do they really need?

Millions of dollars will be flowing to school districts across Pennsylvania, but one group claims this is money they don’t need.

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A recent study from the Commonwealth Foundation concluded Pa. school districts are not hurting financially even from COVID-19.

“We looked at the worst-case scenario in tax collections. We looked at average PPE cost across the country for districts and we even looked at cyber school tuition payments,” said Elizabeth Stelle, policy analysis director for the foundation.

Stelle believes the majority of the districts statewide are actually doing well -- something she expects to continue with additional coronavirus relief money.

“We know from historical experiences that Pennsylvania schools are typically very well-funded,” said Stelle.

However, local districts are pushing back on that claim.

Gateway School Board President Brian Goppman said the district cut $3 million from its operating budget due to the pandemic. Plus, there are long-term concerns about the tax base that Goppman said could make the pandemic relief essential.

“Monroeville and especially our district... we get a lot of money from the businesses. Every day that we’re in the pandemic with these restrictions is another day we’re wondering if that business will be around tomorrow,” Goppman said.

Another factor as students return to the classroom, Goppman told Channel 11 they may need to invest in additional teachers and support staff to deal with learning loss -- a major concern of educators nationwide.