basic education funding commission

Pa. School Funding Reached $22,000 per student in 2023 

Harrisburg, Pa., May 21, 2024 — Pennsylvania per-student spending increased to $21,985 in the 2022–23 school year, according to recently released data from the Pennsylvania Department of Education. This represents a 38 percent increase since the 2014–15 school year, ranking Pennsylvania seventh highest in the nation for per-student spending. 

A new Commonwealth Foundation analysis of education funding also finds that most of the state’s 500 school districts sit on excessive reserve funds. 

Key findings include: 

  • Total school district revenues from all sources (local, state, and federal) increased to $36.6 billion in 2022–23. The total comes to nearly $22,000 per student. 
  • State support of public education increased by $5.4 billion, or 53.8 percent, over the last decade. 
  • Pennsylvania ranks seventh highest in the nation in revenues per student. 
  • School districts collectively hold $6.8 billion in reserves, an increase of $836 million over the prior year. More than half of Pennsylvania school districts sit on reserves of more than 20 percent of their spending, the recommended limit from the state’s previous auditor general. 
  • Despite record funding for education, student achievement lags. Notably, half of the state’s fourth and eighth graders cannot read proficiently at grade level, while state testing reveals 34 schools with zero percent proficiency in math. 

Commonwealth Foundation Senior Vice President Nathan Benefield issued the following statement:

“The facts speak for themselves. While funding increased dramatically and many districts stockpiled taxpayer funds, student performance is lagging. Our findings challenge the claims that more dollars will improve outcomes.

“Pennsylvania lawmakers should instead embrace opportunities to give families more education options, especially for kids assigned to our lowest-performing public schools. Lifeline Scholarships would give these students a chance at a better future. The legislature must prioritize passing Lifeline Scholarships.”

Commonwealth Foundation polling released in April found that 77 percent of voters support Lifeline Scholarships. 

Regarding education funding, voters estimated that Pennsylvania spends only $4,000 per student on public schools, far below the actual $22,000 spent. Meanwhile, 45 percent believe $22,000 per student in annual spending is “too high,” and only 18 percent see this amount as “too low.” Overall, 61 percent of voters oppose paying additional taxes to provide a $6 billion increase in public school funding. 

Read the full Commonwealth Foundation education funding analysis and view the breakdown of each school district’s reserve funds here


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