PA School Districts Have $2.4 Billion in Reserves

New data from the Pennsylvania Department of Education (released last week) show that school districts across the state have a combined $2.4 billion in General Fund reserves as of the end of 2007-08 school year.

I raise this fact because during yesterday’s budget debate, House Democrats claimed that spending “only” $5.2 billion on basic education grants was evil and mean, but spending $5.5 billion on the same line item was “for the kids.”  Yet this $300 million dollar difference is one-eighth the level of money schools have but are not spending on the kids.

Furthermore, Rendell administration continues to claim that property taxes will go up if we don’t spend more state dollars (and raise state taxes) on schools.  This is just further evidence that Rendell’s claims are false – first because schools have already set property taxes for next year and can’t be changed, so the state budget will have no impact on property tax rates – but also because schools have more than enough funding:

Property Taxes: est. $11.6 Billion
Other Local Taxes: est. $2.7 Billion
State Aid Under SB 850: $9.7 Billion
Federal Stimulus Funding to Schools: $720 Million
Federal Aid (non-Stimulus):  est. $900 million
Other Funding: est $200 million
School Districts’ Budget Reserves: $2.4 Billion
TOTAL: $28.2 Billion

Is $28.2 billion not enough to fund school districts?  If I suggest $28 billion is enough, does that mean I hate children?

How much money do schools really need, when they aren’t spending what they already have?  Must the answer always be “more”?