Wolf’s education budget helps schools recover from Corbett’s cuts

| 02 Sep 2015 | 02:19

With approval from the Republican-led House and Senate, former Gov. Corbett cut over $840 million in classroom funding in 2011-12. Of the two budget proposals on the table this year — Gov. Wolf’s and the House Republicans’ — only Gov. Wolf’s proposal would help Pennsylvania’s schools finally recover from those classroom funding cuts. Today, about $180 million of those cuts still remain in effect, and we can see their continued impact on our ever-declining Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) scores across all major student sub-groups.

Four years of classroom cuts — from 2011 to 2015 — have resulted in four straight years of falling PSSA scores The PSSA scores in 2014-15 (not shown in the graph below) significantly deepened the decline among students in grades 3-8:

On average, across grade levels, math proficiency or advanced rates dropped by about 35 percentage points.

On average, across grade levels, English language arts proficiency or advanced rates dropped by about 9 percentage points.

In the years prior to these classroom cuts, Pennsylvania enjoyed increased funding and steady annual increases in PSSA scores.

The House Republicans’ budget proposal would increase classroom funding by $100 million, simultaneously shift $87 million in school Social Security payments to next year, and lower the state contribution to the Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS) by $25 million. Even if you ignore this creative accounting and pretend classroom funding would rise by $100 million, that amount would not be enough to undo the damage done to classroom funding since 2011-12. Funding per student would still be down $46.

Only Gov. Wolf’s proposal would offer net positive classroom funding — $133 per student — after years of drastic cuts and help schools recover lost ground.

You can’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results. Gov. Wolf and the voters understand that. So why doesn’t the legislature?

Waslala Miranda
Keystone Research Center and Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center

The Keystone Research Center is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization that promotes a more prosperous and equitable Pennsylvania economy.