Teacher layoffs, larger class sizes, no more elementary music classes, no more French, German or Latin, pay to play sports.
These are not typical discussion topics in many of Pennsylvania's suburban school districts.
These are school districts that by and large have solid tax bases and good test scores. People move to these districts so their children can go to school there.
Yet the cuts and pain have hit suburbia, too.
And Gov. Tom Corbett and the Republican Legislature do not seem to have a clear answer about what school districts should do.
Corbett was quick to announce another commission for higher education, but not one for K-12.
Instead, the mantra is largely the same as last year: Teachers' unions should take pay freezes and districts should cut the fat.
The problem is that's what school districts did last year. Now their deficits are bigger. Even if teachers and administrators took another pay freeze, it wouldn't come close to filling the budget gap at many schools.
Republican lawmakers have to find a better answer for school districts, otherwise the message is: Increase local taxes or lay off teachers in quantities not seen in Pennsylvania in a long time.
At the heart of the funding crisis for school districts in this state are two issues: pensions and government mandates.
In 2001, Gov. Tom Ridge and the Legislature approved increases in public pensions, including for teachers. At the time, the stock market seemed to do nothing but go up. The increases could easily be funded by the stock market gains.
Then the market crashed and had one of its worst decades on record. That left taxpayers picking up the tab for those pension increases.
On top of that, many Pennsylvania school districts contributed little, if anything, to their pensions for much of the last decade. Now the bill is due.
The large hikes in pension costs are eating up all the increases in state funding school districts are getting - and then some. And pension contributions will grow in the coming years. In other words, if Pennsylvanians believe funding at their local schools is bad this year, just wait for what's coming.
The other hindrance to schools is government mandates. Corbett wants to give schools funding as block grants to give them more flexibility, but existing mandates make that difficult.
Schools are required to offer most of the services and classes they do, which is why they look to cut back on sports, one of the few programs not required by law.
Then there are additional mandates to conduct business in a certain way such as the prevailing-wage law that means districts have to pay certain salaries anytime they want building work done. It makes it difficult to get the most competitive bids.
In a rare move, the head of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and the head of the conservative Commonwealth Foundation put out a joint call for the repeal of prevailing wage and the ability to make personnel decisions based on need, not simply teacher seniority.
It's a powerful signal from two organizations that don't often get along.
If state lawmakers truly cannot give more funding to school districts, then the least they can do is address the pension mess and repeal - or at least tweak - as many mandates as they can.
There simply are not enough bake sales and car washes to make up the funding gaps most school districts in this state are facing next year and beyond. We need a better plan.
- The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News