Education Is the New Black

Sharon Ward |

A new poll out confirms the public’s support for more education funding and a new education funding formula.

The poll, conducted by Terry Madonna, was released at a press conference Tuesday in the state Capitol, sponsored by associations representing Pennsylvania school boards (PSBA), school administrators (PASA), business officials (PASBO), and rural schools (PARSS).

The key takeaway is that Pennsylvanians want more state funding for public education. More than seven in 10 (71%) respondents believe the state’s investment in public education should be larger. The poll finds that:

  • more than eight in 10 Pennsylvanians (84%) surveyed said they believe public schools have a “Very Strong” or “Some” effect on economic development;
  • more than two-thirds of Pennsylvanians (67%) said schools with a greater number of students in poverty should “Definitely” or “Probably” receive more state funding; and
  • nearly three-quarters of Pennsylvanians (72%) said they “Strongly Favor” or “Somewhat Favor” using a school funding formula to ensure fair distribution of funding.

These findings are similar to a poll we commissioned with Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY) in June 2013, which showed broad public support for public education and concern about the impact of budget cuts. Our poll also tested the public appetite for new revenue for education, finding that the majority would pay a higher personal income tax or use higher sales and corporate taxes to restore funding cuts.

Education is the new black. A Franklin and Marshall poll in March showed that education has replaced the economy as the issue of most concern to Pennsylvania voters, jumping as the top concern from 25% to 32% between February and March 2014. Meanwhile, 23% ranked unemployment and personal finances as their top concern.

These findings come as the state Legislature considers creating a new education funding commission, similar to the one established for special education last year. Legislation sponsored by Representative Bernie O’Neill has passed the House, and a comparable bill sponsored by Senator Pat Browne is moving in the Senate.

The key question is whether and how a new “funding” commission approaches the “funding” side of the equation. Support for a new formula is widespread, even in the General Assembly. The critical question is whether Pennsylvania gets back to a cost-based assessment of student educational needs and makes plans to meet those needs.

If the new commission wants to take a look at funding adequacy, members can do so knowing the public has their backs.