K-12 Education

Governor Wolf made education a priority in his first term and this year is no different as he continues to call for new investments in education. However, when stacked up beside what Pennsylvania actually needs to create quality public education for everyone, void of inequities, these new investments are just a small step towards addressing our educational needs as a state. The political environment in Harrisburg makes it difficult to even make an ask for what we need to adequately fund our public schools.

HARRISBURG - Something different happened in state legislative elections this year. Instead of running only on local issues, over 120 General Assembly candidates from every corner of the state endorsed the nonpartisan We The People policy agenda.

Last week petitioners in Pennsylvania's school funding lawsuit filed a brief and affidavits refuting the claim made by the Republican leader of the PA Senate, Joe Scarnati, that the lawsuit was rendered moot because the state adopted a school funding formula in 2016. KRC Labor Economist Mark Price was one of the partners who filed an affidvit about the growing funding gaps between low- and high-wealth districts. 

 

A new statewide poll shows that a lack of state funding for public education is at odds with the priorities of Pennsylvanians of all political persuasions.

The General Assembly has begun working on the budget for 2018-19 based on Governor Wolf’s budget proposal. So, this is a good time to look at the governor’s proposals in light of the recent history of funding for education in our state.

Governor Wolf’s budget would finally restore (in nominal dollars) the deep cuts to K-12 classroom funding made by Governor Corbett in 2011-12, which is a noteworthy accomplishment. However, inadequate funding and deep inequities still remain in our school funding system. Also, Governor Wolf continues to prioritize early education funding. His proposal this year, if enacted, would nearly double Pre-K funding since 2014-15. A signature focus of Governor Wolf this year is a substantial investment in Career and Technical Education and workforce development, with the aim of providing high school and post-secondary youth with critical STEM and other technical skills that can lead to good paying jobs.

While the details are different, the basic theme of our analysis of the governor’s budget proposal this year is essentially unchanged from last year and the year before. Once again, Governor Wolf has presented another austere budget that, within the political limits of Harrisburg, makes progress on issues critical to Pennsylvanians. But because of those political limits – and through no fault of the governor – it does not make fast enough progress.

Last year, Mayor Jim Kenney boldly called for the School Reform Commission (SRC) to be disbanded and for control over our schools to be returned to the city. In doing so, he took on the responsibility to pay for schools at a time when growing deficits are expected over the next five years. 

We at PBPC have long argued that the education of Philadelphians shouldn't be a responsibility of the city alone. Not just Philadelphia but the entire commonwealth suffers because the state share of education funding has fallen from almost 50% to less than 35% of total funding.  

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