Tom Corbett is trolling us hard today, calling PA’s state education funding unfair while ignoring his own starring role in making it more unfair.
Lots of voters don’t know this happened, but I’m old enough to remember that we had a fairer funding formula until Tom Corbett got rid of it for no good reason.
During the Ed Rendell administration, a study was released, known to folks in education as the “costing out study.”
What the costing out study said was that state education funding wasn’t taking into consideration important factors like the number of kids in the district getting free or reduced-price lunch, special education, and other factors that would make it more difficult or expensive to educate certain student populations (mainly in urban districts).
So Ed Rendell and the Democrats spent serious political capital creating a fairer education funding formula that did address those things. Remember the “on time budget” talking point Republicans like to use? That won’t make sense to the kids today, but it refers to an Ed Rendell budget that was late – late because Rendell was waiting out the dead-enders in the Republican Party who didn’t want to change the state funding distribution.
In the end the formula passed, and for about a year, PA had a fairer education funding formula. The “costing out” formula was to be phased in over four years, and (mostly) urban districts were in line to get a lot more state money. We got one year of this increased funding in the FY2009-2010 budget, and it was awesome. But then…something happened!
What happened was that Tom Corbett and the Republicans came to power in Harrisburg after the 2010 elections. And one of the first things they did in their first budget for FY-2010-2011 was to completely scrap Ed Rendell’s fairer funding formula.
Not only did they cut $1 billion from public education, but they also changed the distribution of the remaining state funding to cut more money from poor urban districts, and shift state funding back toward rich exurban districts.
Philadelphia Superintendent William Hite says that if Corbett hadn’t scrapped Rendell’s formula, but made the same amount of cuts, Philadelphia would have gotten about $360 million more during the Corbett years than we actually got. The PSD budget standoff last year, mind you, was over $45 million.
So yes, Tom, Pennsylvania’s school funding is very unfair. But it’s unfair because you arbitrarily scrapped the fair funding formula. We don’t need to “study” this. We don’t need to come up with a new formula. A perfectly good formula is sitting over there on your shelf.
Literally all you have to do to make the funding fair again is take it off the shelf, and start using it again in the FY 2014-15 budget.