State Budget Solution #3: Student-Focused Education Funding

Education Spending Must Put Children’s Needs First

January 25, 2017, Harrisburg, Pa.—This week marks National School Choice Week, which recognizes the importance of ensuring children have access to the educational options that best meet their needs. As lawmakers and Gov. Wolf seek to restructure state government this budget season, they should commit to refocusing—not just increasing—education spending to provide the greatest opportunity to Pennsylvania students.

Educational options have led to improved student outcomes and savings for taxpayers. As a result, school choice is among the Commonwealth Foundation’s policy solutions to help improve government operations and efficiency.

Solution #3: Student-Focused Education Funding   

Since 2001, more than 560,000 Pennsylvania students have benefited from the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) programs, which offer options to families dissatisfied with their assigned public school.

While the average EITC scholarship in 2013-14 was $1,587, Pennsylvania’s funding per student that same year reached $15,000. This number has continued to rise, and funding per student now surpasses $16,000, more than $3,500 above the national average. Despite additional funding, the latest biannual “Nation’s Report Card” from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, found stagnant scores in 4th- and 8th-grade reading and 4th-grade math.

Meanwhile, of 18 studies of educational choice scholarship programs, 14 found these programs improve academic performance. Additionally, an EdChoice audit found Pennsylvania’s EITC program saved taxpayers roughly $1.3 billion from 2002-14, as the EITC program educates students for significantly less per pupil than traditional public schools. Of 28 studies analyzing the fiscal impact of school choice programs, 25 found they save taxpayers in costs both to local districts and to state government, while the remaining three found school choice programs are revenue neutral. 

“If Governor Wolf and lawmakers want to reimagine state government, they must ensure every student—regardless of zip code—has access to the educational options that best meet his or her unique needs,” commented James Paul, senior policy analyst with the Commonwealth Foundation. “It’s time to break free from the one-size-fits-all approach to education funding and implement and expand programs, like the EITC and OSTC, that put children’s education first.” 

House Speaker Mike Turzai intends to do just that. He plans to introduce legislation boosting the EITC and OSTC by $50 million and $25 million, respectively.

Note: Leading up to the state budget address, Commonwealth Foundation will highlight additional budget solutions.

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James Paul and other Commonwealth Foundation experts are available for comment. Please contact Gina Diorio at 862-703-6670 or [email protected] to schedule an interview.

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