Yesterday, Gov. Wolf held a press conference at the Capitol discussing the claim that Pennsylvania is “45th in education funding.” Thankfully, that is not true, as the facts plainly show.
According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, Pennsylvania is 8th in the nation in education funding, with more than $18,000 per student going to districts. The national average is about $14,000.
Despite this, a central claim made by Wolf and folks in the education bureaucracy is that the state-level funding in Pennsylvania is too small of a share of that total.
“The share of state funding in Pennsylvania only looks smaller because the amount of local funding to districts is, on average, enormous,” said Colleen Hroncich, Commonwealth Foundation senior policy analyst. “If Gov. Wolf wants the ratio between state and local education funding to be more like other states, we’d have to cut local funding to bring it in line with the national average. Since no one really wants to do that, it’s clear that the ‘state share’ talking point is meaningless.”
Local funding per student at Pennsylvania public schools is more than $3,600 higher than the national average.
Another false claim made by Gov. Wolf at the press conference was that “funding hasn’t increased in a generation.”
In fact, state-level funding to public education has been on a relentless march upward for decades. Even when accounting for inflation, education funding has gone up 68% since 1990 and 28.8% since 2012.
As a result, total funding to Pennsylvania public schools has far surpassed nearly all other states.
“Something else that Wolf seems to want to ignore is the fact that school districts in Pennsylvania are sitting on a massive pile of extra cash that has only grown since the pandemic began,” said Hroncich.
Districts entered the pandemic at the end of 2019 with a total of $4.9 billion in extra money in their general funds, according to the Pa. Department of Education. Since then, they have been allocated $6.2 billion from the three federal COVID bills, almost all of which has yet to be spent.
“If, in the last year, school districts in this state have experienced expenses beyond the approximately $11.2 billion in total that they have in reserves and coming from the federal government, that would be something that should have been explained at today’s press conference,” said Hroncich. “Instead, hyperbole ruled as Wolf evaded facts in service of a political narrative.”
Commonwealth Foundation experts are available for comment. Please contact Michael Torres at 850-619-2737 or [email protected] to schedule an interview.
# # #
The Commonwealth Foundation transforms free-market ideas into public policies so all Pennsylvanians can flourish.