pa education funding increase

Analysis: Pa. Public Education Gets “Dramatic” Funding Increases

Harrisburg, Pa., June 1, 2023 – Pennsylvania school district per-student spending increased to $21,263 in 2021–22, according to newly released data from the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The added funding represents a 42.9 percent increase over 2013 levels, ranking Pennsylvania eighth in the nation for per-student spending.

The most recent data from school districts and the state budget office show dramatic spending increases, according to a Commonwealth Foundation analysis. The study highlights include: 

  • Total public school district spending from all sources (local, state, and federal) increased to $35 billion in 2021–22, up 37 percent since 2013.
  • School district-held reserves grew to $5.96 billion, and over $3 billion in COVID funds for public schools remains unspent. 
  • State support of public education is up 55.7 percent over the last decade, reaching an all-time high of nearly $14.8 billion in the 2022–23 budget.

“Pennsylvania’s per-student spending is $4,000 above the national average,” said Nathan Benefield, senior vice president with the Commonwealth Foundation. “School funding has increased dramatically, while enrollment and student performance have both declined. These findings challenge the education lobby’s claim that schools need more money.”

According to a PDE assessment, 77 percent of Pennsylvania eighth-grade students are not proficient in math, and 44 percent are not proficient in language arts.

“Instead of more education spending, Pennsylvania families need education options, especially for parents assigned to schools that consistently fail our children,” Benefield said. “For example, Lifeline Scholarships would provide opportunities to public school students assigned to lowest performing public schools. The legislature must prioritize passing Lifeline Scholarships.”

Sixty-seven percent of Pennsylvania voters surveyed in March supported the Lifeline Scholarship program, and 77 percent supported expanding Pennsylvania’s successful tax credit scholarship programs.

Read the complete Commonwealth Foundation education funding analysis here, along with an interactive tool where users can look up their school district information here.


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