Of all the bad stuff in Tom Corbett’s budget, this is easily the most offensive. When Corbett got in he and the Republicans quickly reversed Ed Rendell’s fairer education spending formula and went back to skewing the distribution toward wealthy districts. The Education Law Center shows how this flawed formula gives the wealthiest districts the highest percentage increase in funding. They have a link to a spreadsheet comparing all the different districts.
The pattern I find so disturbing is that in many cases, the wealthiest school districts are right in the same Counties as the poorest. If there were County tax bases, the poorest areas would benefit from the higher tax capacity in the wealthier areas. But the tax bases are segregated into rich and poor districts, so there is no way to have a political debate over how the region’s revenue should be distributed. But we can absolutely have that debate when it comes to how state money is distributed.
So for instance, everybody remembers all the articles about the Chester-Upland SD’s fiscal problems last year. How much of a funding increase do they get next year, compared to the funding increase for some of the wealthiest districts in the state that are also in Delaware County?
Garnet Valley 4.10%
Haverford Township 2.75%
Marple Newtown 2.06%
Radnor Township 2.83%
Rose Tree Media 2.02%
Damn. Unless I am missing the studies showing poor kids perform better in school when you starve their districts for money, this just seems like an injustice.
At the least, the goal of the state’s education funding should be to top up poor districts’ budgets so that spending per student in poor districts is equal to wealthy districts. Corbett has this completely backwards. The wealthy districts already have a more valuable property tax base to draw on, and then they’re getting bigger percentage spending increases from the state on top of that.
Given the Democratic Party’s recent focus on inequality, and their highly debatable decision to focus on education as the key to narrowing the wealth gap, I’d think we’d see more Democratic state legislators taking this issue head on. The way we finance education and segregate rich kids from poor kids with all these little school districts is ridiculously regressive and anti-egalitarian.