Huge Cuts Hiding in “Budget Increase”

Hiding in Governor Corbett’s proposed slight increase to the Basic Education Funding line item is the fact that schools will actually lose more money because of pension obligations. Here’s a closer look at pension payments and the way that Corbett’s allegedly “flat seven year budget” for public education actually translates into enormous cuts for schools across Pennsylvania. (Many thanks to Paul Foster for digging through 500 pages of budget numbers to help explain this to all of us.)

As we noted in “Corbett Blames … Us,” the proposed budget eliminates many line items and collapses several others into the Basic Education Funding (BEF) line item. Corbett likes to claim that he has increased BEF spending, but overall, he slashed funding for public education. And what’s more, the increase to BEF is almost entirely to cover state mandated pension payments. In Corbett’s budget projects for the next four years, the only line item that grows is “School Employees Retirement.” (See page E.15.13, or PDF page 497, of the proposed PA budget.)

Back in 2010, Pennsylvania passed reform measures to meet national standards for pension funding. As a result, all of the money that the state sends to school districts for pension funds has to be matched, dollar for dollar, by those districts. That money comes out of each school district’s own budget, further reducing what is available to spend on educating students. As Paul explains, “the increased funding and the growth in that line item actually represents an additional burden placed on school districts by the state. It’s a HUGE burden.”

As you can see from the following table, in four years we will be spending over eight times as much on pensions as we spent last year, or $2.5 billion in 2016-17. Paul has calculated that “pensions will grow from 3% of the state K-12 education budget last year to 22% in 4 years.”

School    Amount      Dollar    Percentage
Year      Budgeted    Growth    Growth 
          (in millions of $)
2010-11   287,562    
2011-12   600,172      312,610    109%
2012-13   916,052      315,880    53%
2013-14   1,318,254    402,202    44%
2014-15   1,775,622    457,368    35%
2015-16   2,262,031    486,409    27%
2016-17   2,532,755    270,724    12%
Cumulative           2,245,193    781%

The bottom line? Governor Corbett’s proposed slight increase to Basic Education Funding actually yields an overall cut to public schools, and because that slight increase is dedicated to pension obligations, the cumulative effect on Pennsylvania’s schools is tremendous. Flat state budgets wind up meaning further huge cuts to our students.

One thought on “Huge Cuts Hiding in “Budget Increase”

  1. I continue to be amazed (confounded?) at the behavior of our elected officials when they rail about federal overreach and then emasculate their own responsibilities permitted under the 10th Amendment. These guys should be viewed as anti-Constitution in their actions. When an elected official undermines the government they are sworn to uphold, what other judgment can be made?

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