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 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.
What are Education Savings Accounts -- and how can they help children in Pennsylvania?
As the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court hears a challenge to the state’s school funding formula today, at issue is the power of the judiciary as well as the truth about Pennsylvania’s education funding.
Over the next nine months, many students will have their lives transformed for the better. But for thousands of other children, this time of year is defined by disappointment. They are trapped in schools that don’t meet their needs—effectively held hostage by a system that limits choice and opportunity.
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As I pointed out earlier this week, Pennsylvania public school spending is at an all-time high. In fact, the state's per student spending is significantly above the national average.
James’ analysis adds that the latest state budget represents yet another increase in state funding for public schools, building on the all-time high established during the 2015-16 fiscal year.
Even the Secretary of Education recognized the commonwealth's education spending is high—relative to other states—and represents increases rather than cuts to funding levels. Detractors normally concede this point, but they respond with “it’s not the amount of funding, it is the inequality.”
They cite data showing a large gap in spending between wealthy (low-poverty) and poor (high-poverty) districts. Here’s the rub: That data shows Pennsylvania spends more per student in every category of districts. That is, even Pennsylvania’s high-poverty districts spend more than high-poverty districts nationally.
What does this mean? If greater “equality” is the goal, we could cut spending by wealthy districts (caps on local school property taxes would be a way to do this) and spend at the national average. These two changes would produce greater equality between districts.
Ironically, government unions, the school boards association, and their allies have lobbied against efforts to control property tax increases.
These statistics aren't meant to downplay or ignore the equity in education funding. As we've made clear in the past, Pennsylvania’s practice of “hold harmless” has created a vast disparity in state funding per student. Hold harmless is the practice of guaranteeing each school district at least the amount of state funding they received in the prior year—regardless of enrollment changes.
The result—over decades—is that districts with declining enrollments receive far more aid per student. Meanwhile, areas with growing student populations have not gotten increases to match their enrollment.
Phasing out the “hold harmless” formula so all state aid is distributed using the new student-based funding formula would fix this problem—without requiring a multibillion dollar tax increase.
In Pennsylvania, 130,000 kids attend public charter schools—about 5 percent of the state’s schoolchildren.
For many of these kids and parents, charter schools are a lifeline to a safer, better education. Unfortunately, demand for charters continues to far exceed supply, resulting in thousands of students languishing on waiting lists—subject to the whims of a lottery to determine their future.
In this week's episode of Commonwealth Insight, we talk with Nina Rees, president & CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, about why charter schools matter, what to do about failing charter schools, and the elements that bring success to a charter school.
Regarding charter school oversight, Nina says charters are, “given a degree of autonomy and freedom in exchange for accountability.” What level of accountability? “A charter can be closed if it doesn’t live up to expectations in its contract or attract enough students.”
The truth is, no one is forced to attend a charter school—they truly are schools of choice. The fact that thousands are lining up to choose them speaks volumes about the value parents see in these alternatives to local school districts.
Later in the podcast, James Paul, CF’s senior policy analyst and education expert, joins to discuss school choice in Pennsylvania—and addresses claims that choice drains resources from school districts.
“If you believe, as I do, that these funds belong to children and families, then any objections to draining funding simply don’t pass muster,” James says.
Indeed, the first goal of public education funding should be to serve the next generation of Pennsylvanians, not to simply maintain the status quo in an educational system or institution. When funds follow families, everyone wins.
posted by DOUGLAS BAKER | 11:03 AM | Comments
"The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth." So reads the Constitution of Pennsylvania under its section on Education.
As Nate mentioned earlier this week, a recent lawsuit seeks the Supreme Court to force the legislature to increase school funding by billions of dollars — primarily on the grounds that Pennsylvania is failing to honor its constitutional mandate. Is it true that the commonwealth is failing to provide a "thorough and efficient system" of public education?
State support of public schools is at an all-time high in Pennsylvania, recently eclipsing $11 billion. Claims of "cuts" from state taxpayers are simply without merit. And remember: average per-student funding in the commonwealth exceeds the national average by more than $3,000.
Election season is in full swing, but so is the fall legislative session. This time of year elected officials walk a narrow line to avoid the illegal practice of using public resources for politics. Yet, public resources are used all-year round to funnel union dues and campaign contributions from workers' ...