Education Spending




Recent Issues

Charter School Reform

Testimony of Nathan Benefield

MARCH 14, 2014 | Testimony by NATHAN BENEFIELD

Charter Schools

The major problems we need to address with charter school funding aren’t specific to charter schools but are inherent in our system of education funding and spending. I suggest that instead of singling out charter schools we reexamine our entire system of funding public education.

How Unions Use Students as Bargaining Chips

SEPTEMBER 18, 2013 | Commentary by NATHAN BENEFIELD

When government unions engage in labor disputes, they use their power and monopoly to remind the public of the value of their service. However, schoolchildren should never have to bear the brunt of the union’s grievances.

6 Trends in Public School Spending

JUNE 24, 2013 | Policy Memo by NATHAN BENEFIELD, PRIYA ABRAHAM

The Pennsylvania Department of Education recently updated files from public schools’ annual financial reports and enrollment reports. Here are six key trends from those data.





Recent Blog Posts

SAT Scores Slip While Spending Soars

APRIL 16, 2014

Pennsylvania education spending is at at all-time high and ranks near the top in dollars spent per student among the states. But all of that extra spending isn't helping kids succeed.

In fact, SAT scores have declined while spending has soared. According to a new Cato Institute analysis, Pennsylvania students perform worse, on average, on the SATs now compared to 1972, despite an almost 120 percent increase—adjusted for inflation—in spending per student. See the chart below.

SAT scor vs Spending

How are we spending so much more without improving education outcomes? The answer is simple: There is no correlation between spending and achievement. How the money is spent is more important than how much money there is to spend. The Cato analysis finds the correlation between state spending and academic achievement is not significant:

Correlations are measured on a scale from 0 to 1, where 0 represents absolutely no correlation
between two data series and 1 represents a perfect correlation. Anything below 0.3 or 0.4 is
considered a weak correlation. The 0.075 figure reported here suggests that there is essentially no link between state education spending (which has exploded) and the performance of students at the end of high school (which has generally stagnated or declined).

The answer to our education woes is not more spending, but smarter spending. Education reform should also mean protecting high performing teachers, embracing different education models (themed public charter schools or public cyber charter schools) to serve different learning styles, and reforming the archaic student funding formula.  

School choice and competition is the key to saving students, not never-ending spending increases. 

posted by ELIZABETH STELLE | 02:29 PM | Comments

The $1 Billion Lie Exposed

MARCH 4, 2014

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) took out full-page, color ads in several major state newspapers last week proclaiming Gov. Corbett "closed neighborhood schools" and laid off teachers in Philadelphia through massive education funding cuts. In the western part of the state the ad warns, "Don’t let Allegheny County be the next Philadelphia."

These ads were grossly misleading. State funding for public schools is at an all-time high. The $1 billion in "cuts" was the expiration of temporary federal stimulus money. 

So we ran our own ad today correcting the record.

AFT claims Gov. Corbett and state lawmakers "cut $1 billion" in education spending in the state budget. But the real facts about education spending are something else entirely.

The 2013-14 budget spends nearly $10 billion and the proposed 2014-15 budget calls for $10.1 billion for PreK-12 schools—an all-time high, even exceeding when the state budget included federal stimulus funds. As you can see in the chart below, the AFT's claims are simply untrue.

$1 billion cut ed graph

But the worst part of the AFT's misleading campaign is how it was funded—by teachers' dues collected using taxpayer resources. It’s time unions are held accountable for dishonest political ads they run at the expense of educators and taxpayers across the state.

We should stop this practice which gives government unions an unfair political privilege to engage in politics.

posted by ELIZABETH STELLE | 09:00 AM | Comments

Myth: PA Spends Less on Education

FEBRUARY 25, 2014

There are many myths circulating about how much Pennsylvania spends on public education. One such myth is that the state government used to provide 50 percent of all revenue for public schools, equaling the local share. State records indicate otherwise. 

The state's share of education funding has never been as high as 50 percent. Records from the Pennsylvania Department of Education show that the state's percentage of education revenue reached an all-time high of 45 percent in 1974-75.

While the state share declined from 45 percent to 36 percent of total school district revenue, this was not due to a reduction in state subsidies for education. State aid—adjusted for inflation—increased by 41 percent since 1974. The state share only declined because local tax revenue—also adjusted for inflation—increased 98 percent over that frame.

Pennsylvania Education Revenue by Source

Moreover, claims about the percentage of education revenue coming from the state is often used to advocate for more state spending.

However, according to NCES data, Pennsylvania’s state aid per student is about the national average, and we rank middle-of-the-pack in state revenue per student. The "state share" is lower because Pennsylvania’s local education revenue is nearly $3,000 per student more than the national average, ranking Pennsylvania 7th in the nation.

Indeed, Pennsylvania taxpayers spend significantly more per student—about $3,000 above the U.S. average—and more than most other states.

Per Pupil Revenue Total Federal State Local
United States  $12,217 $1,527 $5,394 $5,296
Pennsylvania  $15,153 $1,851 $5,230 $8,073
 
PA Rank 10 11 27 7
Source: National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics, Table 235.20. Revenues for public elementary and secondary schools, by source of funds and state or jurisdiction: 2010-11, http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d13/tables/dt13_235.20.asp 

Here are some more facts about Pennsylvania education spending.

posted by NATHAN BENEFIELD | 04:13 PM | Comments



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Should taxpayer resources be used to collect a private entities' dues and political money?

SAT Scores Slip While Spending Soars

April 16

Pennsylvania education spending is at at all-time high and ranks near the top in dollars spent per student among the states. But all of that extra spending isn't helping kids succeed. In fact, SAT scores have declined while spending has soared. According to a new Cato Institute analysis, Pennsylvania ...