Pa. House Budget Locks in Most of the School Funding Cuts

Chris Lilienthal |

The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center is out with a new policy brief setting the record straight on some recent claims made about state education funding in the commonwealth.

Education funding was a hot topic last week when the state House debated a 2013-14 budget bill—a plan that locks in nearly 85% of the cuts to public school classrooms enacted in 2011-12.

So just what is the truth when it comes to education funding in Pennsylvania? A few highlights from our policy brief:

  • Expired federal funds were replaced almost dollar for dollar with state funds in corrections and health care programs, but not in education. Lawmakers who argue that education cuts were driven by the loss of temporary federal funds made a choice to restore lost funds to prisons, hospitals, and nursing homes, but not schools.
  • Education funding cuts have disproportionately hurt school districts with a larger share of low-income students. School districts across Pennsylvania have been forced to absorb state funding cuts, but students from the poorest school districts have been hit hardest. Cuts have been most severe in school districts with more than 50% of students categorized as low income.
  • Nearly 85% of school cuts remain intact in this budget. Classroom funding cuts in 2011-12 averaged $482 per student. The 2013-14 budget would reduce that funding gap to $403 per student, locking in 84% of the original cut.
  • Education funding in 2013-14 is lower than 2008-09, when adjusted for inflation.

Over the past week, momentum has been building for stopping a planned cut to the capital stock and franchise tax. Senator Jake Corman, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he is open to keeping the tax rate at 2012 levels, which would raise an additional $360 million to restore funding to public schools and other priorities in 2013-14.

Time is running out for school districts across the commonwealth. Delaying unaffordable tax cuts is the fiscally responsible thing to do and must be a part of any effort to get our schools back on track.