Should the Pennsylvania Supreme Court order the Legislature to give billions more dollars to school districts? That's what a recent lawsuit demands. But to make their case to the public, the lawsuit's advocates are repeating the widely discredited myth that the state once—but no longer—funded 50 percent of public school spending.
In reality, the state share of education spending never reached 50 percent. Records from the Pennsylvania Department of Education show that it peaked at 44.7 percent in 1974-75.
While the state share declined from 45 percent to 36 percent of total school district revenue, this was not due to a reduction in state subsidies for education. State aid—adjusted for inflation—increased by 41 percent since 1974. The state “share” only declined because local tax revenue—also adjusted for inflation—increased 98 percent over that time frame.
Pennsylvania actually provides more state funding than the national average on a per-student basis. The “state share” as a percentage only appears low because Pennsylvania schools receive about $3,000 more per student from local revenue, and in total revenue, than the national average.
That is, if Pennsylvania reduced local public school taxes to the national average, the “state share” would reach this mythical 50 percent.
(Note: The charts below are interactive. Touch or click on the tabs at the top or the bars to see more information.)