Note: This blog post has been updated since its initial posting.
With approval from the Republican-led House and Senate, former governor Tom Corbett cut about $860 million in classroom funding in 2011-12. Of the two budget proposals on the table this year—Gov. Wolf’s and the House Republicans’—only Gov. Wolf’s proposal would help Pennsylvania’s schools finally recover from those classroom funding cuts. Today, about $570 million of those cuts still remain in effect, and we can see their continued impact on our ever-declining PSSA scores across all major student sub-groups.
Four years of classroom cuts—from 2011 to 2015—have resulted in four straight years of falling PSSA scores.
The PSSA scores in 2014-15 (not shown in the graph below) significantly deepened the decline among students in grades 3-8:
- On average, across grade levels, math proficiency or advanced rates dropped by about 35 percentage points.
- On average, across grade levels, English language arts proficiency or advanced rates dropped by about 9 percentage points.
Figure 2: PBPC Analysis of Budget Data
In the years prior to these classroom cuts, Pennsylvania enjoyed increased funding and steady annual increases in PSSA scores.
The House Republicans’ budget proposal would increase classroom funding by $100 million, simultaneously shift $87 million in school Social Security payments to next year, and lower the state contribution to the Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS) by $25 million. Even if you ignore this creative accounting and pretend classroom funding would rise by $100 million, that amount would not be enough to undo the damage done to classroom funding since 2011-12. Remaining cuts per student would still be $274.
Only Gov. Wolf’s proposal would significantly improve classroom funding by decreasing the remaining cuts down to $94 per student and help set us on the path towards full restoration of those cuts.
After years of drastic cuts, only the governor’s proposal offers our children a way out.