With more than $12 billion in surplus and one-time funds available to spend in the 2022-2023 state budget, we had very high hopes that the PA legislature would approve Governor Wolf’s proposed $1.75 billion increase for K-12 schools. We had also hoped for charter school reforms that would curb gross overpayments to cyber charters and help rein in their wasteful spending. Unfortunately, the Republican-led Pennsylvania legislature had very different priorities (and a huge amount of power in budget negotiations).
The very bright spot in the 2022-2023 budget is that K-12 public schools will receive a historic increase of $850 million in recurring basic and special education funding. Public K-12 schools, including charter schools and Intermediate Units, will also share $200 million in one-time grants for school security and mental health.
The hard work of parents, advocates, and educators–you!!– successfully built the public will and enabled these increases to happen. Every phone call you made, every email you sent, every trip you made to Harrisburg or your state lawmaker’s office sent a message that Harrisburg’s typical meager increase in school funding was unacceptable. This year’s historic increase of $1 billion in K-12 funding will make a real difference for students. THANK YOU.
However, as our allies from the Education Law Center and Public Interest Law Center state, this increase does not ensure that students in every community can receive the high-quality education they’re entitled to under the State Constitution. This year’s funding increase is a big step in the right direction. But the state must do much more.
Below please find some key pieces of the budget related to education. We will share a more in-depth analysis in the upcoming weeks.
K-12 schools will see a significant increase in funding under this budget including the following:
$525 million increase in Basic Education Funding for all 500 school districts
$225 in Level Up funding for the 100 most deeply underfunded school districts
$100 million increase in special education funding
$100 million in one-time grants to school districts for school safety
$100 million in one-time grants to school districts to support student mental health
$6.1 million for career and technical education
The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) will receive:
- $75 million increase to the line-item (a 15.7% increases), which now totals $552,470,000
- $125 in one-time federal American Rescue Plan funding that will be distributed among the campuses
PA Community Colleges will receive an $11 million increase, about 4%
PHEAA will receive a $45 million increase (a 12%, increase) to provide additional financial support to students
“It’s On Us” Sexual Assault Prevention will receive $1.25 million
Hunger Free Campus Initiative (a new initiative) will receive $1 million
Pre-K programs will receive the following increases:
- $60 million for Pre-K Counts, which will serve approximately 2,500 additional children
- $19 million Head Start supplemental
- $10 million for early intervention Part B (ages 3-5) and $9.3 million for early intervention Part C (infants and toddlers)
THE (VERY) BAD
The budget increases the amount of tax credits available for private/religious school vouchers in the unaccountable Educational Improvement Tax Credit and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (EITC/OSTC) programs by $100 million to a whopping total of $275 million per year plus a $10 million increase for OSTC scholarships, bringing those up to $65 million per year.
There is virtually no state oversight over these dollars and there are no academic standards for schools that receive the tax dollars. Vouchers are used to subsidize the education of well-off children in elite private schools and they are used to pay for tuition at religious schools that use the Bible as the basis for all teaching and discriminate against children because of their beliefs. And–“scholarship” organizations are allowed to skim off and spend and eye-popping 20% of this funding in any way they please.
EITC funding for Pre-K programs also increased by $8 million bringing total Pre-K tax credits to $44.5 million. Funding for Education Improvement Organizations increased by $7 million to $20.5 million in total EIO funding.
The Wolf Administration’s charter school regulations were tossed as part of the budget deal with Republican leaders, who stridently opposed the regulations every step of the way. This is a huge disappointment and leaves bad actors in the charter school sector free to continue cheating, stealing, and discriminating against students.
Republican leaders also refused to allow a vote on charter school funding and accountability reforms that would have more closely aligned charter school tuition rates with charters’ actual costs to save taxpayers $373 million. This means more parties at Dave and Buster’s for cyber charter school students and higher property taxes for all of us. Generous campaign donations from school privatization interests certainly paid off this year.*
THE UNACCEPTABLE (AND VERY SAD FOR PENNSYLVANIA’S FUTURE)
The budget includes a tax cut that will decrease Pennsylvania’s corporate tax rate from 9.99% to 4.99% over the next eight years. Lost revenue will mushroom to $2.25 billion PER YEAR by 2031. Our allies from the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center made this statement about the impact of this corporate tax cut:
Over the long term, this corporate tax cut, on top of the $4 billion per year in tax cuts corporations have received over the last fifteen years, will lead to tax increases on working and middle-class Pennsylvanians. And it will make it impossible for us to fully and fairly fund education at all levels, to help all Pennsylvania families secure a decent standard of living, to fix our infrastructure, and to protect our environment, and guard against climate change.
The huge corporate tax cut reveals the Republicans’ pose as guardians of responsible budgeting to be a bad joke. They claim credit for putting $2.1 billion in the Rainy Day Fund. Yet that’s less than the revenues that will ultimately be lost, year after year when the corporate tax cut provisions are fully in place.
While there are parts of this budget that are very disappointing, the work of advocates in every corner of the commonwealth this year enabled an increase of $1 billion in funding for K-12 schools, including $225 million in Level Up funding that will be directed to the schools that have the greatest need. This is something to celebrate!
I am so proud of all of us and am deeply grateful for your tireless efforts to support our local public schools.
*We thank Philly Power Research for taking the time to add up the political contributions from billionaire Jeffrey Yass to school privatization PACs from 1/1/2019-6/6/2022, which include $8 million to state legislative races and $2 million PA GOP party committees and related PACs. More on this in a future email….