Education

CF’s work in education focuses on promoting opportunity and improving children’s lives though incentive-based reforms.  Instead of repeating the failed attempts to reform education through new rules or additional funding, such reforms use competition to improve education.   Incentive-based reforms include providing choice within the public school system through charter schools and cyber schools, providing families with private school options through vouchers or tax credit-funded scholarships, and measuring and rewarding success in education for both schools and teachers.   Only when parents have are able to choose the best school for their child, have an abundance of educational choices and ample information, and schools are forced to compete for students will we provide the best education to Pennsylvania’s youth.




Recent Issues

Six Facts About Voters' Views on State Education Spending

AUGUST 26, 2014 | Poli-Graph by COMMONWEALTH FOUNDATION

Nearly three-quarters of Pennsylvania voters underestimate the amount the state spends on education. And when informed of the facts, support for boosting education funding by hiking taxes dropped significantly.

Poll: Voters Vastly Underestimate Education Spending, Majority Grade Schools D or F

AUGUST 26, 2014 | News Release by COMMONWEALTH FOUNDATION

August 26, 2014, HARRISBURG, Pa.—Nearly three-quarters of Pennsylvania voters underestimate the amount the state spends on education, according to a poll released today by the Commonwealth Foundation. And, in a stinging rebuke to the status quo, 53 percent of those polled grade Pennsylvania’s public school system a D or F overall when informed of student achievement levels.

For Teachers, Knowledge is Power

AUGUST 11, 2014 | Commentary by PRIYA ABRAHAM

Like any other group of professionals, teachers are a diverse lot, holding vastly differing social, cultural, and political views. So why is it that they’re lumped together and forced to join state and national teachers’ unions that often don’t reflect local teachers’ concerns?





Recent Blog Posts

Audio: 73% of PA Voters Underestimate School Spending

AUGUST 26, 2014

Yesterday, we released a new poll showing just how confused voters are about state education spending levels and the results that money is buying.

When 54% of voters say they would not be personally willing to pay higher taxes to increase education funding, other solutions like pension reform and school choice must be considered.

To discuss the poll details and what can be done to improve our public education system—without raising taxes—CF's Matt Brouillette joined WSBA's The Gary Sutton Show.

Listen to a portion of the conversation:

The Gary Sutton Show airs daily on WSBA 910AM in the York area.

Follow Commonwealth Foundation’s SoundCloud stream for more of our audio content.

And for mobile listening, get the SoundCloud iPhone and Android apps.

posted by JOHN BOUDER | 03:29 PM | Comments

Pension Costs Forcing Teacher Layoffs

AUGUST 20, 2014

We've debunked on this blog the "billion dollar education cut" myth time and time again.

Yet another common refrain—even among those who admit state spending has increased, which it certainly has—is that new expenditures are not "showing up in the classroom." In other words, school districts are hamstrung by pension costs and have to make cuts in other areas.

This point does indeed carry water. 

Take a look at how Public School Employees' Retirement System (PSERS) contributions have skyrocketed over the last five years in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, the state's two largest districts. We can also project the coming costs for 2013-14 and 2014-15 using the mandated contribution rates for those respective years.

In Pittsburgh, pension payments rose from $11 million in 2008-09 to $26 million in 2012-13, and an estimated $45 million in 2014-15. In Philadelphia, payments rose from $42 million to more than $101 million, and will reach $175 million this coming school year.

Phila SD PSERS

Pitt SD PSERS

The statewide retirement contribution trend tells the same story. From 2008-09 to 2012-13—a span of just five years—statewide PSERS costs nearly tripled. Estimated payments for this year are about 5 times what they were in 2008-09.

With contribution rates continuing to rise, the fiscal outlook only grows more ominous in the years ahead. 

PA Statewide PSERS

To put this in perspective, consider how these costs compare to teachers' salaries. Pension costs from all public schools will have risen by approximately $1.9 billion from 2008-09 to 2014-15. Given that the average teacher salary is $63,500, that increase in pension payments equals the salary of 30,400 public school teachers.

The bottom line is that Pennsylvania faces a genuine pension crisis. School districts are simply running out of options. Even increased education revenue will not be able to offset the growing retirement costs. 

Responsible pension reform is the best way to ensure that future education funding truly finds its way into the classroom. 

posted by JAMES PAUL | 03:15 PM | Comments

Podcast: Teachers Opt Out of Union Membership

AUGUST 19, 2014

As part of National Employee Freedom Week, we sat down with two western Pennsylvania teachers who successfully left their teachers’ unions last year. John Cress is a middle school math and special education teacher and Rob Brough is a 20-year history and reading teacher. Both were motivated to opt out after seeing the political nature of their unions’ activities.

Why is an annual educational campaign designed to inform teachers of their right to opt out of full union membership even necessary? Teachers’ unions don’t make such information widely available. Indeed, both Rob and John thought they had to join the union as full members in order to get their first teaching jobs.

Rob Brough for BlogBrough says, “The bottom line is: No. I can say with absolute certainty that none of those options were given to me . . . If a person doesn’t know that their rights even exist, how can they exercise those rights freely?”

Cress agrees, saying, “There should be full disclosure on where the dues are going and the educator should be permitted to make the decision by him or herself as to whether or not to continue to contribute to those causes.”John Cress for Blog

After years of union membership, Brough determined that the teachers’ unions weren’t designed to help improve his effectiveness in the classroom: “I was learning nothing about becoming a better public servant. I was, however, learning about politics. I was learning about organizations that were designed to increase the union’s effectiveness.”

Cress disagreed with his unions’ political stances but was powerless to change them: “It was very frustrating every time one of those [political] emails came because I was thinking, ‘Why do I have to be part of this organization? Why do I have to support these causes just to be a teacher? I should have free will. I should be able to have an open mind, but I was under the impression that I couldn’t.”

Listen to the full conversation:

Know a teacher who might benefit from knowing their rights? Send them to www.FreeToTeach.org for more information.

Follow Commonwealth Foundation’s SoundCloud stream for more of our audio content.

And for mobile listening, get the SoundCloud iPhone and Android apps.

posted by JOHN BOUDER | 09:00 AM | Comments



Media contact:
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Who are We?

The Commonwealth Foundation is Pennsylvania's free-market think tank.  The Commonwealth Foundation crafts free-market policies, convinces Pennsylvanians of their benefits, and counters attacks on liberty.