A Look at Education Funding in Governor's 2013-14 Budget

Governor Tom Corbett proposed a 2013-14 budget of $28.4 billion — up $400 million, or 1%, from the budget in place when he took office in 2011. The budget proposes expensive new corporate tax breaks that will continue to shift costs to individuals and local taxpayers, while failing to restore deep cuts to public schools, keep college affordable for middle-class students, or ensure working families can obtain basic health care.

The 2011-12 budget cut $841 million from public schools, almost 10%, and the 2012-13 budget left most of those cuts intact, forcing many school districts to cut programs and resulting in the loss of 20,000 teachers and support staff. The Governor’s 2013-14 budget provides a small increase to the basic education subsidy, while increasing total education funding by $338.1 million to $10.9 billion. Funding for K-12 classrooms and higher education would remain well below 2010-11 levels.

Education Funding
(in $ millions)
  2010-11 2013-14 % Change
Education - Classrooms $6,310 $5,596 -11.3%
Education - Total PreK-12 $9,909 $10,019 1.1%
Education - Higher Education $1,933 $1,587 -17.9%

Basic education funding is increased by $90 million, or 1.7%, from current levels to $5.49 billion. This is $282.5 million, or 5%, less than in 2010-11. Overall classroom funding — including the basic education subsidy, formula enhancements, the Accountability Block Grant, Education Assistance Program, charter school reimbursement, and school improvement grants — is $714 million, or 11.3%, less than 2010-11. Special education is level-funded for the sixth straight year, at $1.027 billion. 

The budget maintains $100 million in funding for Accountability Block Grants, which were cut from $254.5 million in 2010-11. In the last two years, the Governor proposed eliminating funding altogether for these grants, which allow school districts to fund full-day kindergarten, pre-kindergarten and innovative research-based programs, but lawmakers partially restored the funding.

The Governor proposed a new program in this budget called the “Passport for Learning Block Grant.” It would use an estimated $1 billion of the upfront proceeds from the sale of the state liquor stores to support educational programs. A total of $200 million would be provided to school districts in the 2014-15 school year to use for school safety, enriching K-3 education, individualized learning or enhancing access to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. This proposal depends on passage of a liquor privatization plan that has failed to pass the General Assembly twice and remains in doubt.

Other Education Areas

Funding for public school student transportation is increased by $13.6 million, or 3%, to $555.9 million, while funding for non-public and charter school student transportation rises by just under $1 million, or 1%, to $78.6 million. Funding for the Pennsylvania Assessment would be increased by $3.8 million, or 7%, to $55.96 million.

School Pensions

The budget includes an increase of $223.9 million for school employee retirement funding, a cost paid both by the state and local school districts, from $856 million in 2012-13 to $1.08 billion in 2013-14. The amount is below the estimated $411 million increase required under current law, but the plan includes savings of about $140 million from proposed pension changes. 

The Governor’s pension proposal would reduce the future benefits of current teachers and state workers and enroll new employees in a defined contribution plan, similar to a 401(K) plan. Some funding increases in the budget are conditioned on these pension savings, which may not be enacted by the Legislature or could be challenged in the courts. 

Early Childhood Programs

The budget increases funding for Early Intervention for 3-5 year olds by $5 million, or 2%, to $222 million. Funding for Pre-K Counts would rise by $4.5 million, or 5%, to $87.3 million, and the Head Start Supplemental program would see a $1.9 million, or 5%, increase to $39.2 million.

Libraries and Literacy

Adult literacy was flat-funded at $11.7 million, down from $23.4 million prior to the recession. Public libraries are flat-funded at $53.5 million, and the State Library is steady at $1.9 million.

Job Training

Career and technical education was flat-funded at $62 million, which is an $11.4 million, or 16%, cut from 2010-11 levels.

Higher Education

The Commonwealth’s higher education institutions – including the 14 campuses of the state system, Penn State and the state-related institutions — saw their funding slashed by 19% in 2011-12. Funding remained at that level in the 2012-13 budget, despite efforts by the Governor to cut further. The 2013-14 budget propose another year of flat funding.

The State System of Higher Education is funded at $412.8 million; Penn State University at $227.7 million; Temple University at $140 million; the University of Pittsburgh at $134 million; Lincoln University at $11.2 million; and the Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology at $10.3 million. The Governor secured a promise from the universities to keep tuition increases low in exchange for flat funding.

The commonwealth’s community colleges are also funded at the current year level of $212.2 million. 

The budget flat funds the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) at $386.1 million, 12% less than the $441.1 million in funding provided to the agency in 2010-11. Last year, the PHEAA Board of Trustees voted to fund tuition assistance with $75 million in reserve funds.