Public school funding is a top concern among Pennsylvania voters, according to a new poll that comes as state lawmakers are debating a budget locking in nearly 85% of the classroom cuts enacted two years ago.
The poll, commissioned by the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center (PBPC) and Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY), finds that Pennsylvanians have a favorable impression of public schools, particularly those in their own neighborhood, and are worried that our schools are in crisis. Across the commonwealth, schools have had to increase class sizes, cut full-day kindergarten, music and the arts — all changes that the public doesn’t like and would be willing to raise new revenue from themselves and corporations in order to avoid.
Education funding, however, is not the top priority in Harrisburg right now, where a planned tax cut for businesses is set to go into effect next year while most of the classroom cuts remain intact. These cuts have affected children in every school district but especially those from high-poverty districts, with per student cuts five times higher than low-poverty districts, according to a recent PBPC policy brief.
With less than a week to go until a final budget is due, momentum is building for delaying a corporate tax cut next year that is at a record low rate and is paid by a small fraction of Pennsylvania businesses. Freezing this corporate tax at the 2012 rate would raise $360 million to restore more funding to schools in 2013-14. As our poll shows, state lawmakers and Governor Corbett would be on safe ground with the public by freezing that tax and making education funding a higher priority.