ICYMI: The Times-Tribune: Wolf’s budget further exposes inequities

February 11, 2022

This week, Governor Tom Wolf delivered his budget address, highlighting the administration’s historic investments in Pennsylvania classrooms, ​while recognizing that we must do more to support education.

“We can afford to invest a whole lot more in the Fair Funding Formula without raising one penny in state taxes, and we can afford to do it without asking any school district, anywhere in Pennsylvania, to sacrifice one penny in state funding,” said Gov. Wolf on Tuesday. “Last year, we made a historic investment in our schools. This year, we have an opportunity to build on that momentum and make a generational difference for students all across the commonwealth.” 

On February 9, the Times-Tribune posted the following editorial:

As Gov. Tom Wolf proposed a new budget Tuesday that would mitigate the government’s inequitable education funding, legislative Republicans continued to defend that unfair funding in court.

So there is scant chance that legislators will use the budget process to eliminate the vast funding disparities between affluent and poor districts that they created and defiantly have maintained.

The commonwealth has a projected surplus of between $5 billion and $6 billion, plus about $7 billion in unspent federal pandemic relief funds. With as much as $13 billion on hand, Wolf used his final budget address to propose increasing school funding in a way that would be especially beneficial to struggling districts like Scranton’s.

Now, only about 12% of education funding is distributed according to the fair formula. If all state money was distributed under that formula, Scranton alone would receive about $30 million more every year. Scranton is not a party to the Commonwealth Court suit, but such disparities are the subject of the litigation in which the legislative majorities attempt to defend the indefensible.

Wolf proposed an additional $1.25 billion in basic education funding, which by itself would raise the amount of money distributed under the fair formula to about 25% of the state total.

The governor also proposed an additional $300 million in “level up” funding to help compensate districts for money that they have not received since 2015.

Legislators should seize the opportunity to mitigate their own unfair funding decisions by approving Wolf’s proposal, and then apply the fair formula to all state education funding.

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