Harrisburg, Pa., August 22, 2023 — Pennsylvania public school spending soars as enrollment drops and school hiring increases, according to a new Commonwealth Foundation back-to-school policy backgrounder that highlights the latest state public education trends.
“Pennsylvania spends nearly $22,000 per student in public schools, with state and local taxpayer funding constantly increasing,” concludes the report. “School districts have fewer students, but more teachers, more administrators, more support staff, and significantly larger reserve funds.
“The issue isn’t a lack of money, but how it is distributed. State lawmakers should work to ensure that funding follows the child, not the building, and continue progress on pension reform that benefits both teachers and taxpayers.”
Among the report’s findings:
Enrollment Down, Hiring Up
Since 2000, Pennsylvania public school enrollment has dropped 7.7 percent (139,000 fewer students); but public schools have added 21,145 more employees (8.8 percent growth), including nearly 40 percent growth among administrators.
Pension Liabilities Crowd Out Teacher Pay
The average Pennsylvania public school teacher earns nearly $75,000 in salary, ranking 12th highest in the nation. But, school districts spend, on average, $20,000 per teacher in contributions to pay off past unfunded pension liabilities—the pension debt. Had Pennsylvania enrolled its public employees in a 401K plan instead, the school districts could pay their teachers an additional $20,000 per year, without increasing overall spending.
Per-Child Spending Exceeds National Average.
Pennsylvania school districts spent $21,263 per student in 2021–22, ranking seventh in the nation at more than $5,500 above the national average.
State Funding at All-Time High
State support of public education is up 54 percent over the last decade, reaching an all-time high of almost $15.5 billion in 2023–24.
Reserve Funds Swell
Pennsylvania school districts are stockpiling taxpayer resources, with over $5.96 billion in general reserve funds and another $2.9 billion (including charter schools and other public schools) in unspent federal pandemic aid still sitting in the treasury.
Read the full Commonwealth Foundation back-to-school backgrounder here.
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