Tom Wolf: Corbett’s Education Policies Cause Chaotic Start to School Year

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In a recent press release, Tom Wolf is stressing the importance of ensuring that every child has access to an excellent education, and is giving details of his proposed funding formula for state education dollars.

“The current way of funding schools in Pennsylvania shortchanges too many school districts and the students in those communities,” Wolf said. “Governor Corbett’s more than $1 billion in education cuts have only made the problem worse. All schoolchildren in the Commonwealth should have access to a quality education, but without real funding reform and a governor focused on making education a priority, too many children are headed to schools that are overcrowded and understaffed.”

Here’s the rest of Wolf’s release:

Governor Corbett’s funding cuts have removed more than 20,000 teachers from the classroom, caused 70% of school districts to increase class sizes, led 19 school districts to eliminate full-day kindergarten, left 56% of students without access to a full-time librarian, and forced communities all across the state to raise property taxes.

And the state’s funding system — or lack thereof — has made the problem worse by creating winners and losers depending on the income levels of individual school districts and the ability of state legislative delegations to bring education funds back to their districts. “The combination of funding inequities and Governor Corbett slashing education funding have led many local communities to become increasingly reliant on raising property taxes, which adds to additional burden on seniors on a fixed income and hard-working Pennsylvanians,” said Wolf.

Pennsylvania is one of only three states in the entire country that does not use a funding formula for distributing state education dollars to local school districts, and is far below the national average in terms of percentage of state funding — contributing only 32%.

According to the Education Law Center, this had led to a large funding inequality where on an annual average, high-poverty schools spend “$3,000 less per student compared to wealthy schools. This adds up to a funding gap of $75,000 per classroom of 25 students.”

“It’s simply unacceptable that a freshman in one district might have larger class sizes, older textbooks, and a neglected high school simply because his or her state representative is also a freshman or a member of the wrong party,” said Wolf. “To make matters worse, many parents and seniors in underfunded districts are now facing increased property taxes and schools that barely have enough staff to safely open. We must do better for our children and for Pennsylvania taxpayers by developing a funding formula that is equitable, transparent, and holds districts accountable.”

Tom Wolf will work closely with Democrats and Republicans alike in the state Legislature to enact a sensible, equitable funding formula that includes a nationally competitive base rate, and ties additional funding to district size, poverty levels, local tax efforts, and student makeup. This formula will:

  • Lead to increases in state funding, which will help alleviate the tax burden on property owners;
  • Ensure that state funds are distributed in an equitable, transparent, and predictable manner so that school district leaders have the ability to plan for the long term; and
  • Incentivize school districts to develop innovative programs that improve student achievement.

“I believe that all of us have a stake in the quality of the education our children receive because it’s the key to good jobs and a secure middle class,” said Wolf. “And I will fight everyday to build a world-class public education system so that we can keep, create, and attract good jobs right here in Pennsylvania.”

About Jake Sternberger

Jake Sternberger was a contributing writer at Keystone Politics from 2011 to 2014.
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