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.


Recent Issues

Wolf Doubles Down: Highest Spending Increase in 25 Years

FEBRUARY 9, 2016 | News Release by COMMONWEALTH FOUNDATION

Today, Gov. Tom Wolf doubled down on his tax-and-spend agenda, proposing a $3 billion spending increase—a 10 percent bump, the largest in 25 years—requiring broad-based tax increases of $850 per family of four.

Redesigning Government to Balance State and Local Budgets

FEBRUARY 8, 2016 | Policy Memo by BOB DICK

Pennsylvania taxpayers shoulder the 15th highest state and local tax burden in the country. Consequently, the Keystone State has seen an exodus of working people. Unsustainable growth in state government spending has fueled this high (and growing) tax burden.

Myth vs. Fact as Wolf Announces Education Plans

FEBRUARY 2, 2016 | News Availability

The reality is, state taxpayers are already paying enough for public education. The governor and lawmakers must find smarter ways to spend this money, not keep asking for more.



Recent Blog Posts

Wolf Tops $1 Billion in New Education Spending

FEBRUARY 12, 2016

As expected, a cornerstone of Gov. Wolf’s budget proposal is a massive increase in state support of public schools. The administration seeks a $1.1 billion increase over the record-high funding levels passed at the end of 2015.

Wolf also demands supplemental spending in the 2015-16 fiscal year based on a “framework budget agreement” from last November. Seemingly everyone except the governor’s office knows the framework agreement has collapsed, yet Wolf is still baking these increases into his 2016-17 proposals.

The chart below demonstrates Wolf’s continued efforts to spend more money than Pennsylvania taxpayers can afford. When the governor finally signed the majority of HB 1460 at the end of December, the General Assembly agreed to significant increases in Basic Education, Special Education, and Pre-K programs. Still, Wolf clings to the more expensive framework budget—insisting that these supplemental appropriations be signed into law.

 

2014-15

HB 1460

(2015-16)

Framework

(2015-16)

2016-17

Basic Education

5,730,069

5,880,069

6,106,969

6,306,969

Special Education

1,046,815

1,076,815

1,096,815

1,146,815

Pre-K

136,462

166,462

196,462

256,462

Pensions

1,157,853

1,725,000

1,725,000

2,064,000

Total (thousands)

8,071,199

8,848,346

9,125,246

9,774,246

 

(Note: Basic Education includes the Ready to Learn Block Grant, and Pre-K includes the Head Start Supplemental Assistance and Pre-K Counts line items).

Contrary to the rhetoric from the administration, Pennsylvania schools are not underfunded. The commonwealth ranks 10th in the nation in public school revenue, with per-pupil spending exceeding the national average by $3,400.

 

posted by JAMES PAUL | 03:40 PM | Comments

Groundhog Day: Wolf Demands Millions More for Education

FEBRUARY 3, 2016

When Punxsutawney Phil casts a shadow, Pennsylvanians expect a long winter. When Gov. Wolf issues a press release, Pennsylvanians expect a massive tax hike.

How fitting that Wolf chose Groundhog Day to demand another $577 million in basic education funding—$377 million for the rest of FY 2015-16 and an addition $200 million in the next fiscal year. The governor’s demands are rooted in the “framework budget” from last November, which was rumored to include $350 million in new basic education funding.

Unfortunately for Wolf, the framework budget has been dead for months [paywall]:

“I believe they may be the only party that does not believe the framework is dead,” said Senate GOP spokeswoman Jenn Kocher of the Wolf administration. “I'm sorry but it died the day that pensions did.”

The administration provided no explanation for why the $350 million figure increased to $377 million. Perhaps this was intended to offset the $50 million in borrowing costs incurred by school districts as a direct result of Wolf’s budget vetoes. Nonetheless, the administration seeks to distribute the 2015-16 funding through a hyper-political “formula” that ignores the recommendation of the state’s Basic Education Funding Commission.

Wolf continues to demand more spending while placing little value on smarter spending, which is exactly what the Funding Commission was created to ensure. The governor is not demonstrating a willingness to compromise, either: his education spending requests are not much different than his original proposal last March.

Rather than a $377 million windfall, what schools really need is the $3.1 billion that Wolf vetoed in December.

Of course, Pennsylvania revenue per-student already exceeds the national average by $3,400. Even when looking solely at state funding, Pennsylvania schools are better-funded than average.

posted by JAMES PAUL | 11:31 AM | Comments

Evaluating Pennsylvania’s Charter School Law

JANUARY 25, 2016

In 2015, several states took action to improve the functionality of their public charter school laws. Unfortunately for Pennsylvania’s 130,000 charter students—as well as the thousands of students on currently on charter waitlists—progress in the commonwealth remained elusive.

According to an analysis by The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, Pennsylvania’s charters are losing ground to schools other states. The 2015 report compares Pennsylvania law to the National Alliance’s model legislation. Pennsylvania’s national ranking slipped from 25th to 27th. Lawmakers can do more to ensure healthy growth in the charter sector, especially given that charters were among those hardest hit by the governor’s refusal to sign a responsible state budget until late December.

Findings from the National Alliance suggest that Pennsylvania’s charter laws, despite meeting standards in some categories, need improvement in several critical areas. The most notable failings were related to enrollment caps, authorizer accountability, and fair funding. The commonwealth also has room to grow in terms of access to capital funding and facilities. On the other hand, Pennsylvania received high marks for its transparent application and review processes, as well as for exemptions from local school district collective bargaining units.

What better way to celebrate National School Choice Week (NSCW)—which kicks off today—than to take action strengthening Pennsylvania’s charter school law? NSCW is the country’s largest annual celebration of educational opportunity. A more robust charter sector will empower families to chose from a larger group of high-quality schooling options. 

Want to show your support for school choice in Pennsylvania? "Like" National School Choice Week on Facebook and join the conversation on Twitter by using the hashtag #NCSW.

posted by CODY STRYKER, JAMES PAUL | 06:00 AM | Comments