Advocates need summer school for finance
Classes will be ending soon for the 2018-19 school year, but deliberations for the 2019-20 state budget will be kicking into high gear. Besides the proposed $13.1 billion for education contained in the budget, there are bills related to an expansion of the Educational Improvement Tax Credit and charter school finance and approval.
Seeing these developments, several education officials with some connection to Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) gave their thoughts on these bills and state funding for K-12 education at a news conference. Nothing too surprising was said: the state needs to provide more funding, the tax credit program is a “backdoor voucher program,” education is the best investment that the state can make, etc.
Based on 2017-18 data from the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Pennsylvania School Boards Association compilation of state averages for that year, PPS ranked 85th out of 500 with $10,687 in state revenue per pupil. That was higher than 415 other districts in Pennsylvania and considerably higher than the state average of $6,690. PPS has benefitted from hold harmless in the basic education subsidy, a situation that should end given the district’s enrollment declines. PPS was near the top for federal funding per pupil and, when combined with local funding, its total revenue per pupil was $25,099 (making it 13th highest).
This is a denial of resources?
As far as state investment, education spending would be 40 percent of the general fund if the 2019-20 spending plan is approved. When proposals for state-owned, state-related and higher education assistance are added the share increases. Do advocates decrying the state’s level of spending have a specific area(s) of the state budget they would shift money from?
Lastly consider that we found several years ago that magnet schools in PPS were some of the district’s better academic performers. At the time we noted “all dedicated parents and children ought to be awarded opportunities to look outside the inadequate schooling offered in most ‘regular’ district schools.” PPS even operates its own online academy to compete with cyber-charters. The existence of these options is essentially school choice: so why would there be opposition to an expansion of an alternative that might be helpful to PPS students?