Pennsylvania K-12 Education Spending

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Pennsylvania’s FY 2011-12 total operating budget of $63.4 billion, which included $27.1 billion in General Fund spending, represented the first year-to-year reduction in state spending in at least 40 years. However, as the economy continues to struggle out of a recession and with increasing costs in public welfare, corrections, pensions, and debt, the FY 2012-13 budget will require even more difficult decisions by the General Assembly and Governor Corbett to put Pennsylvania on a path to prosperity.

Pennsylvania Public School Spending Continues to Grow

  • Overall K-12 revenue and spending has dramatically increased in Pennsylvania over the last 15 years.
    • Pennsylvania’s K-12 education revenue increased from $13 billion in 1995-96 to $26 billion in 2009-10. Adjusted for inflation, that represents a 44% increase in revenue per student.
    • Pennsylvania school districts spent more than $14,000 per student in the 2009-10 school year.
  • School construction and debt spending has more than doubled in the last 15 years, increasing by 140% from $1.2 billion in 1996-97 to $2.9 billion in 2009-10.
    • Prevailing wage laws increase the average cost of construction by 20% or more; repealing this mandate would save $400 million a year in property taxes.

PA Public School Revenue

Public School Staffing has Increased while Student Enrollment has Declined

  • Student enrollment has decreased by 35,510 since 2000 while schools have hired 35,821 more staff members.
    • Most of these new employees pay hundreds of dollars in dues and fees to the PSEA or PFT labor unions as a condition of employment.
    • In 2010-11, the PSEA spent $4.2 million in dues on political activities and lobbying against substantive education reforms, including school choice, teacher evaluations, and taxpayer control of tax increases.

K-12 Public Education Performance has Stagnated

  • Despite these spending and staff increases, performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the national exam used to compare state performance, has changed little.
  • Academic studies have found little or no correlation between student achievement and class size, teacher salaries, or per-student expenditures.
  • Pennsylvania’s average composite SAT score in reading and math has hovered around 995 for the last 15 years, despite doubling spending.

Public Schools have $2.8 Billion in Reserves

  • At the end of the 2009-10 school year, public schools had $2.82 billion in fund reserves.
    • This includes $1.7 billion in undesignated funds, and $1.1 billion in funds designated for specific future use.
    • School reserve funds have grown by 140% (from $1.3 billion to $2.8 billion) since 1996-97.

School Choice Costs Taxpayer Less

  • Private, charter and home schools educate more than 380,000 children at far less cost to taxpayers than the $14,000 per student spent by school districts.
    • Private, nonpublic schools serve more than 287,000 students with some receiving state support (including transportation costs going to school districts) of less than $1,000 per student.
    • Educational Improvement Tax Credit scholarships—which averaged about $1,000 per scholarship in 2009-10—served approximately 39,000 students with an average family income of less than $30,000.
    • Charter schools, including cyber charter schools, served 90,000 students in 2009-10 at about $2,400 less per student than school districts spent.
    • Homeschooled children, approximately 22,000 according to 2007-08 data from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, receive no direct taxpayer support.
  • Parents choosing non-traditional public schools saved taxpayers more than $4 billion in the 2009-10 school year, based on school district spending per student.
Total Taxpayer Savings from Students Attending Schools of Choice
 2009-10 School Year
Savings Per Student* Number of Students** Total Savings
Private and Nonpublic $13,279 287,092 $3,812,403,692
  EITC Scholarship Students $12,235 38,646 $472,848,486
Home School $14,301 22,000 $314,622,000
Public Charter (Total) $2,367 73,054 $172,903,936
  Cyber Charter $3,366 20,406 $68,685,860
Total 382,146 $4,299,929,628
* Includes All state funding for nonpublic schools plus tax credits for EITC scholarships as a cost. ** Homeschooling enrollment estimate based on 2007-08 PDE data.
Sources: PA Department of Education, Summaries of Annual Financial Report Data; Public School Enrollment Reports,

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