The conventional wisdom in Harrisburg suggests Gov. Wolf is nearing an agreement with the legislature on a state budget. The specific details remain largely unclear, although it appears the deal would increase Pennsylvania’s sales tax to the second highest rate in the nation—amounting to a net tax increase of $190 per family of four.
Central to the budget framework is a substantial increase in state education spending. Wolf has reportedly agreed with legislative leaders to increase the Basic Education line item by $350 million and the Special Education line item by $50 million.
How do these figures—touted by Wolf's office as a “record increase” in school funding—compare to earlier stages of the budget negotiations? See the chart below.
The first columns illustrate the funding Wolf requested in March during his budget address. The middle columns represent the additional funding provided by the House and Senate in the no-tax, on-time budget, which was ultimately vetoed by the governor. The third columns represents the “budget framework” agreement.
If reports are accurate, Gov. Wolf will emerge with most of the new spending he requested in March—including more than 87 percent of the Basic Education funding.
This is notable, given the broader context of education spending in Pennsylvania. The commonwealth currently spends more than $15,000 per public school student, which ranks 11th in the nation. What’s more, funding for public schools is already at an all-time high, both at the state level and overall.
Pennsylvania may be on the verge of a record-high increase to an already record-high level of education spending. Of course, most evidence suggest a tenuous relationship between spending and educational outcomes.