Increased education spending has not led to improved academic performance. This is reflected in SAT scores and NAEP results, as well numerous studies at the state, national, and international level. To improve academic performance, policymakers should pursue a student-based funding formula, mandate relief, and expanded school choice.
Governor Wolf has wasted little time crystalizing his vision for public education—and it doesn’t look promising for families supportive of school choice. If his first few months are any indication this much is certain: Wolf is hostile to schools of choice, cozy to union interests, and wedded to the educational status quo.
Pennsylvania ranks among the nation’s leaders in education spending per student. Although spending levels are high, the system for distributing state funding is outdated. Weighted student funding (WSF) is a method for distributing education dollars that promotes fairness and transparency.
Recent Blog Posts
Last week, Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives approved a significant expansion of two state scholarship programs, the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC).
Since 2001, EITC and OSTC have awarded over 430,000 scholarships to students across Pennsylvania, providing lifeboats to children looking to escape dangerous and failing schools.
Matt Brouillette recently spoke with Gary Sutton on WSBA about House Bill 752 and the benefits that its $100 million expansion will bring to children hoping to pursue school choice programs.
Matt explains that EITC and OSTC build connections between corporations and their communities. These programs allow businesses to “see a direct benefit from their tax dollars going to help educate children”–rather than sending that money to strangers in Harrisburg.
Listen below or click here to hear Matt’s interview.
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.
In a promising move for Pennsylvania students, the House Education Committee passed two important bills today that will keep effective teachers in the classroom and expand educational options.
HB 805, sponsored by Rep. Stephen Bloom, passed with a 14-10 vote. This legislation would end seniority-based layoffs in Pennsylvania public schools. Rep. Bloom’s Protecting Excellent Teachers Act ensures that in the unfortunate event of furloughs, teachers are evaluated based on their effectiveness in the classroom—not simply the date they were hired.
HB 752, sponsored by Rep. Jim Christiana, also passed committee by a vote of 18-8. This legislation would increase the Educational Improvement Tax Credit cap by $70 million ($100 million to $170 million) and the the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit cap by $30 million ($50 million to $80 million). Increasing these caps will create more scholarships for students in need.
Pennsylvania’s scholarship tax credit programs allow tens of thousands of low and middle income families to attend schools that are more rigorous, safer, and better-tailored to each student’s unique circumstances. The programs result in great savings to taxpayers, too, since the average scholarship amounts to a fraction of the cost of educating a student in a traditional public school. And these programs allow businesses to ensure that their tax dollars are efficiently spent on a quality private education instead of being funneled into the state government General Fund.
As odd as it might sound, some rural schools could actually be harmed by Gov. Wolf’s efforts to increase education funding by imposing a severance tax on natural gas.
At least one school superintendent sees Wolf's Education Reinvestment Act as more of a threat than a help.
Dr. Kenneth Cuomo, superintendent of the Elk Lake School District in Susquehanna County, says, “The concern is that the tax could be passed on to landowners in the form of post-production fees that are assessed against royalties paid by gas companies”
To address such fears, Wolf’s legislation does include a prohibition on directly passing on the tax to landowners or leaseholders. But Bill desRosiers, a spokesman for Cabot Oil & Gas, notes the prohibition would be contrary to the practices of other states. In the end, simple economics indicates companies will find other ways of passing along the cost of the severance tax.
According to Dr. Cuomo, that's bad news for Elk Lake, because royalties the district receives from three wells—nearly $2 million thus far—could decrease:
That’s revenue for the district and losing it would require us to increase taxes to keep our buildings afloat.
Most of the people who make these proposals don’t live north of Interstate 80 (where much of the state’s gas is produced) and don’t understand their impact.
Apart from skimming royalties from landowners and the school district, the severance tax proposal would diminish the ability of companies to support schools in other ways—such as $50,000 worth of pipe Cabot Oil & Gas contributed to the Susquehanna County Career and Technology Center.
“The pipe was enough to supply our welding program for three years,” reports Dr. Alice Davis, administrative director of the center, which serves up to 500 pupils from seven school districts, along with 200-300 adult students. “Without that contribution, our taxpayers would have had to pay for the pipe.”
Schools being harmed by a natural gas tax is just one of the many unintended consequences of the governor’s education proposals. His approach takes more from the pockets of Pennsylvanians without addressing reforms that can impact the classroom performance far more than money ever could.
Spending more wisely, not just spending more, is the real solution.
Who are We?
The Commonwealth Foundation is Pennsylvania's free-market think tank. The Commonwealth Foundation transforms free-market ideas into public policies so all Pennsylvanians can flourish.