So, this is a thing that happened:
“State Sen. Scott Wagner went for a helicopter ride last week. Sen. Wagner took WHTM’s Dennis Owens for a ride, figuratively.
The senator flew over three central Pennsylvania schools hoping to illustrate that schools are not hurting for funding. In the report that aired, he flew over Cumberland Valley, Northeastern and Central York, showing that those high schools indeed looked impressive from the air.
That’s about all it showed.
For one thing, Cumberland Valley has to be among the more affluent school districts in the state. Northeastern has one of the highest property tax rates in the county. And Central York, well, its educators aren’t exactly sitting by the side of the road holding “Will Teach Your Kids For Food” signs.”
What Senator Wagner gets wrong about flying over schools to check on their funding levels is that
1. You need to have the school budget in front of you to really get a handle on their numbers. You can only really get a rough idea of the school district’s balance sheet from looking at their land footprint from thousands of feet in the air.
2. You need to know whether their funding levels are solid because state funding is sufficient, not just total funding. As the York Daily Record editorial board points out, these particular schools are well-funded by local taxes, not state taxes. What the state funding formula conversation is about is whether the school districts who don’t have lots of wealthy homeowners are getting enough money per pupil to provide a “thorough and efficient” public education, as required by the state Constitution. And the answer there is clearly no.