Pennsylvania Education Spending

JUNE 29, 2010 | Policy Points by COMMONWEALTH FOUNDATION

Pennsylvania faces a projected General Fund shortfall of over $1 billion.  Gov. Rendell proposed a $29 billion budget for FY 2010-11 that increases taxes, and is demanding a $350 million increase in basic education subsidies to school districts.  This is the seventh in a series of fact sheets on the Pennsylvania state budget.

Pennsylvania cannot spend its way to educational success

  • K-12 public education spending has skyrocketed in Pennsylvania:
    • Pennsylvania's education spending increased from $4 billion in 1980 to over $25 billion in 2009 - a 133% increase in per-pupil spending, from $6,171 to $14,420 (in 2010 dollars).
    • School construction and debt spending has doubled in just 10 years.  Prevailing wage laws increase the cost of construction by 20% or more; repealing this mandate would save $400 million annually in construction costs.

Pennsylvania Education Spending

Public school staffing has increased while enrollment has declined

Pennsylvania Public School Enrollment and Staff
2000 2009 Change 
Enrollment  1,814,311 1,787,351 -26,960
Total Staff 231,770 264,697 32,927
(includes public charter schools)
Source: PA Department of Education
  • Since 2000, enrollment has declined by 26,960 while schools have hired 32,937 more staff members.
    • Most of these new employees pay dues to the PSEA labor union, which runs one of the largest political action committees in the state and heavily funded Gov. Rendell's campaigns.

K-12 public education performance has stagnated

Public schools have $2.7 billion in reserves

  • PA Schools Fund BalancesReserve funds have increased over $1 billion since 1996-1997 to $2.7 billion
  • School district fund reserves are almost 8 times the amount of Gov. Rendell's proposed $354 million increase in state subsidies.

School choice saves taxpayer money

The $75 million Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) was reduced in last years' budget deal, while subsidies for school districts rose by four times the cost of the entire EITC.  Another cut to the EITC is scheduled, while school districts are in line for an increase of over $300 million. 

  • The average EITC Scholarship is $1,100, compared with the average school district spending of over $14,000 per-pupil.
    • If the EITC were to be cut and scholarship opportunities reduced, many students would be forced back into high-cost public schools, resulting in higher property taxes.
    • The EITC saves taxpayers almost $500 million per year by allowing children to attend better or safer schools at a lower cost to taxpayers.

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For more information on the Pennsylvania State Budget, visit CommonwealthFoundation.org/budget.

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