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December 2013 Vol. 21. No. 3 Focus on A Broken Funding System

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Candidates for the 2014 governor’s race share more about their education platforms

By the Notebook on Dec 13, 2013 12:36 PM

In addition to their responses to our question about Pennsylvania's current approach to K-12 education funding, the nine candidates were invited to give additional explanations of their positions on school funding issues.


Tom Corbett

The charter school reimbursement line item was designed to provide transition funding for school districts in the early years of the charter school movement.  At the time, school districts had no way to estimate the number of students that would choose to enroll in a charter school and properly plan for this expenditure in their budget.  Since that time, charter school enrollment has become more predictable and districts no longer face significant budget uncertainties.

However, I do not believe we should focus on the charter school reimbursement line item. In fact, Pennsylvania needs, and I have proposed the creation of a charter school funding commission to study the way charter and cyber schools are funded. The formula, which was established at the inception of the charter school movement, has not been updated in 15 years.  Charter school funding must be reviewed to determine if it is in the best interest of Pennsylvania students or if changes are warranted. Transitioning to a student-focused funding formula, as noted above, for both traditional and charter school students has significant potential to improve the distribution of education funding in Pennsylvania.

As Governor, I have sought to keep taxes low for all Pennsylvanians, including school property taxes.  In my first budget, I closed several loopholes to limit the ability for school districts to increase taxes for expenses, such as health care-related costs and school construction.

It’s important to note that in 2011-12, Pennsylvania taxpayers spent more than $26.5 billion in state, federal and local taxes to support the state’s public education system. What’s very troubling to me is that, despite the taxpayer’s investing more than $26.5 billion, including significant increases in state funding of $1.17 billion over the last three years, more than half of the state’s school districts raised property taxes. From 2005-06 to 2011-12, school property taxes have increased from $9.4 billion to $11.5 billion – a jump of 21 percent – while at the same time, state support of public schools increased from $7.8 billion to $9 billion – an increase of 16.5 percent.

Additionally, the 500 school districts throughout the Commonwealth have more than $3.5 billion in unreserved fund balances, representing over-taxation of their residents.

I believe that Pennsylvania should ensure that every student has access to quality educational opportunities that meet their individual student needs.


Allyson Schwartz

We must set high expectations for schools, educators, students, and parents and ensure that precious taxpayer dollars are used wisely. But elected officials must also meet their responsibility to Pennsylvania’s children and our economic future.

Right now, we are failing too many children. Drastic cuts to basic education have forced rural, suburban, and urban school districts to make devastating choices, including increases in class size, the elimination of full-day kindergarten, teacher layoffs, and cuts in science, technology, and other core curriculum areas. Aid to our schools is determined by political calculations in Harrisburg and not by a school’s need. This is wrong. Providing high-quality public education is the most fundamental responsibility of state government and should not depend on where the student lives in the state. 

As Governor, I will partner with stakeholders to determine the necessary level of state support to ensure that all students receive a quality education. I will establish a transparent and predictable funding formula that recognizes student and school district characteristics like student enrollment, school district size, and poverty. I will also provide sustained, adequate, and fair support to every school in Pennsylvania. 

But we must do more. We must give our children a strong start by expanding access to prekindergarten and full-day kindergarten. We must make smart investments to improve student performance and make education work for today’s students. We must empower teachers and school leaders, and ensure that every public education dollar is invested wisely.  

We must recommit to public education. There is no better investment for our children and our economic future. 


Ed Pawlowski

Education is one of the most important factors in the success of our children, but more than that, it is critical to our success as a commonwealth. If we want to attract quality jobs that pay a family sustaining wage, we must have a workforce that is trained and qualified for the jobs of the 21st century. To do that, we must find fair and equitable ways to fund our children’s educations.

First, we have to look at the issues facing our schools. Many of our urban and poorer school districts face obstacles that others don’t – including the need to work with children who may not come from English-speaking homes and children who come from low-income homes where they may not receive the care or even the meals they need because their families just cannot afford it. 

Comments (10)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 13, 2013 6:35 pm
It's very interesting that the first words listed under Tom Corbett's name are "charter school." I can't wait until we find out who is lining his pockets and from which charter school. It's disgusting!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 14, 2013 5:43 pm
Go Corbett! Let the people know how much the others will raise our taxes if elected in order to give kickbacks to public sector unions.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 14, 2013 9:32 pm
Charters are much more expensive than Public Schools. Public School funds pay for Charter Schools. Public Schools were designed to fail since the late 80's and they have failed.
Submitted by HS teach (not verified) on December 15, 2013 9:52 am
Oh, you would rather have your taxes go into the pockets of Corbett's wealthy donors. Why do you hate the hard working middle class families so much?
Submitted by tom-104 on December 15, 2013 11:27 am
In the most recent KeyStone tests the average score for traditional public schools statewide was 77.1. Brick-and-mortar charter schools averaged 66.4 and cyber charters 46.8.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 15, 2013 12:59 pm
How about Philly district schools vs. Philly Charters? You're comparing apples and oranges.
Submitted by Annonym (not verified) on December 15, 2013 2:42 pm
The School District high school are extremely stratified. There are extremely selective magnets (Central, Masterman, SLA, Engineering and Science, Northeast HS Magnet program), then selective magnets (Girls, GAMP, Bodine, Academy Palumbo, FLC, etc.), city wide admit with admission requirements (Robeson, Parkway - North, CC, NW, Constitution, Workshop, etc.) and vocational (Bok at Southern, Randolph, Swenson, etc.) Then, there are charters with admission requirements (e.g. CHADD has an extensive application, Mastery has a "by any means necessary" contract, Eastern HS has an extensive application, etc.) Many charters also require visits / interviews (e.g. Boys Latin), submission of tax forms and other documents not required by public schools (Franklin Towne Charter, Prep Charter, etc.) Then, there are neighborhood high schools (with no magnet program) that have to accept any student. So, comparing test scores is NOT a fair assessment of a school. Students with IEPs, ELLs, behavior issues, etc. are concentrated in neighborhood high schools. Schools like Central and Masterman should have high test scores - they only admit students who meet their standards. Charters are able to siphon off students - or place them with Camelot (e.g. Mastery at Gratz, Olney Charter). There is no apples and oranges comparison.
Submitted by tom-104 on December 15, 2013 12:10 pm
The apples you speak of are districts and schools with many high income families. The oranges are districts and schools with many low income families. There is a direct correlation between family income and how a student does on a test. The problem in Phiadelphia is due to lack of resources.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 15, 2013 1:38 pm
Exactly. So why are you using statistics to compare charters, highly concentrated in Philly, to all state schools? But then you don't compare Philly Charters with Philly District Schools? Where is that data?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 26, 2013 11:37 am
When reading Corbett's answer I got more information on charter school funding and property tax than his views on a quality education for all student's. He made his position clear - no new taxes at the expense of education and our kids ( and the State's) future!!!

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