Never Forget: PA GOP Cut State’s Share of Education Spending from 44% to 33%

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Democrats would have a much stronger rhetorical position in the education funding debate if they just dealt in simple percentages, and left Republicans to bore voters with tedious quibbling over the baseline and the raw spending numbers.

Thinking about it in terms of percentages, the story is much easier to tell.

The state’s share of education funding got up to around 44% by the end of the Rendell administration, and was supposed to keep increasing, as per the “Costing Out” study’s recommendations, which had some bipartisan political buy-in back then.

Then the 2010 shitwave happened, Republicans got full control of state government, and they cut the state share down to 32%. It bumped up a teensy bit to 33% in the last budget, but is still criminally low.

For context, the national average is about 48%, and Tom Wolf wants to take it up to 50%.

This entry was posted in Budget, Education, Issues.

9 Responses to Never Forget: PA GOP Cut State’s Share of Education Spending from 44% to 33%

  1. Doug Webster says:

    Where Mr. Wolf WANTS to take it and where he will be ABLE to take it will be the central theme of his initial term as Governor. The state is clearly facing a major deficit as a result of the budget games played by Mr. Corbett….pie in the sky revenue projections, one-time gimmicks and now borrowing to meet payroll obligations.

    All of that gets dumped into Wolf’s lap. His one big opportunity to generate new revenue is an extraction tax, but good luck with that, given a legislature that is now even more thoroughly GOP controlled than before and even more conservative. This will not be pretty.

    • phillydem says:

      Once Wolf takes the unencumbered medicaid expansion, a good chunk of that deficit is going to be filled.

      Further, there are many public schools in republican dominated districts. Any rep who thinks it’s a good idea to stay the course on education funding isn’t going to find himself/herself very popular next cycle. If there was any mandate this election, it was to fix school funding.

  2. Albert Brooks says:

    “The state’s share of education funding got up to around 44% by the end of the Rendell administration”

    Does that include Federal Stimulus money? If so it really isn’t “state funding” if not then you have a better argument. Your link doesn’t say and doesn’t give any reference as to where they got their numbers.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      Again, stimulus or no stimulus, the policy goal of the Rendell administration was to keep increasing the state’s share. The federal stimulus provided the convenience of being able to temporarily replace state money with federal money in that pursuit. But the process had started before the federal money arrived. The central point of contention between Ds and Rs continues to be that Ds think 1. Congress should have kept the state aid flowing until the economy returned to trend growth, and 2. if Congress was going to cut the state aid off, then the state legislature’s job was to continue the Rendell policy of a higher state share through a combination of cutting weak claims on the budget and raising more revenue. Total education spending levels should have stayed constant or grown, federal money or not.

  3. GDub says:

    Share of budget is a silly way of framing an issue. If somehow the state cut spending on absolutely everything else, education would be 100% of the budget.

    I’d say the federal stimulus–which in accounting should be considered more like a one-time windfall than a change to baseline–is more significant than you lay out.

    In a world of big numbers, something like share of state GDP is probably a more sensible way to put the argument. Less room for financial chicanery. Take it to the next level and say what percent is the goal for personnel, management costs, and infrastructure.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      “If somehow the state cut spending on absolutely everything else, education would be 100% of the budget.”

      You’re misreading the argument. I’m not talking about the share of the state budget, I’m talking about the state’s share of the total education budget. The local school district share grew during Corbett’s term because the state cut back.

  4. GDub says:

    My argument is the same. If every school district cut all of its educational funding, the state share would be 100%. Is that “better”? Of course not.

    Maintain a positive argument–state educational spending will be X% of GDP, and then figure out how to spend it right.

  5. phillydem says:

    Jon’s point is correct. take TOTAL education funding (state+local+federal) and figure state’s share should be 50% of that. Or figure out the optimal total amount to spend on education and the state’s share should be 50% of that.

    Also, Corbett changed the accounting of “education funding” including things like pension payments that hadn’t been included before, thus making it look like spending increased when it actually didn’t.

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