The Words We Have Waited For

We have waited four long years to hear these words. There’s no better way to start this morning than to quote Gov. Wolf himself, who put public education at the very top of his budget speech yesterday:

Let’s start with schools.
Our commitment to education is historic.
We are starting with education because, in many ways, education is at the core of everything else that we want to achieve. …
A great public education system will help Pennsylvania attract new businesses, retain talent, and grow the middle class. …
Over the past four years, Pennsylvania took a step in the wrong direction by trying to balance our state budget on the backs of our schools.
It left us with 25,000 educators out of work.
It forced 75 percent of school districts to cut academic programs.
It forced 70 percent of our school districts to increase class sizes.
It left 56 percent of Pennsylvania students with no access to a full-time librarian.
And it forced too many schools to cut art and band to pay for reading and math.
My fellow Pennsylvanians: this is not a formula for success.
We can do a lot better.
It’s just this simple: our state is never going to get stronger as long as we make our schools weaker.
And that is why the very first thing my budget does is restore the $1 billion in cuts to public education that occurred under the previous administration. [Gov. Wolf’s 2015-16 Budget Speech]

I think I hear angels singing. Or maybe that’s choirs of public school children excited to get their music programs back. With that sweet soundtrack in mind, here are the education highlights from the governor’s proposed budget (summaries from EducationVoters PA and the Education Leadership and Policy Center):

  • INCREASE of $400 million for Basic Education Subsidy, the largest in Pennsylvania history according to EdVoters (up 6.98%). This combined line item includes what was for 2014-15 separate line items for Basic Subsidy, Accountability Block Grant, and Ready to Learn Block Grant.
  • INCREASE of $100 million for Special Education (up 9.55%).
  • INCREASE of $120 million for Early Education – Pre-K Counts and Supplemental Head Start (up 87.93%). This will increase the number of children in Pre-K Counts and state-funded Head Start Supplemental Assistance programs by 75% or more than 14,000 children!
  • INCREASE of $23 million for Career and Technical Education (up 37.10%).
  • INCREASE of $4.6 million for Adult and Family Literacy (up 38.10%).
  • INCREASE of $15 million for Community Colleges (up 6.98%).
  • INCREASE of $45.302 million to the State System of Higher Education (up 10.98% increase).
  • INCREASE of $82.138 million to State-Related Universities (up 15.76%). Locally, this would include restoring $14.9 million to the University of Pittsburgh.
  • INCREASE of $2 million for the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA) grants to arts organizations (up 23.3%).
  • $9 million for Dual Enrollment requested from the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA)
  • An estimated $160 million in savings to school districts from Cyber Charter Reform, including a proposed 10% in charter reimbursement and a flat rate for cyber-charter schools.
  • Governor Wolf also called for a new education funding formula by June 30th (to start in the 2016-17 school year).

What do all these numbers mean for local school districts? Pittsburgh would see an increase of 8.06% with this budget, restoring $14.9 million in combined Basic Education Funding and Special Education Funding to our schools. (See PA Dept of Ed spreadsheet for all school districts.)

As I told the Post-Gazette, this is what parents have been waiting for. This budget puts us on track to get us back to where we were before the education cuts four years ago. [Post-Gazette, 3-4-15] It’s not the end-all, be-all … but it sure is sweet music to our ears. Gov. Wolf even made public education the headline of his widely shared budget info-graphic (below). Now the legislature needs to get to work with our new governor and make it happen!


7 thoughts on “The Words We Have Waited For

  1. I am fully in agreement with our cheering more aid to education. However, we must also look at the larger picture in which Wolf has proposed cutting the corporate taxes in half, increasing income tax, and increasing sales tax, thereby financing far too much of this from the pocketbooks of those who can least afford it. These education increases are just a start, but we should demand that it come from the already overflowing corporate profits and not from the increasing numbers of the working poor.

    • The governor is NOT proposing to cut corporate taxes “in half.” Most corporations in the state do not pay the 9.99% corporate net income tax. And by most, I mean 70% of corporations do not pay it. Why? Because their Pennsylvania subsidiaries pay “rent” or a “licensing fee” to their Delaware subsidiaries. There is no corporate income tax in Delaware. So they show all their profit in Delaware, but no profit in Pennsylvania, so they pay no corporate income tax to Pennsylvania.

      This is called the Delaware Loophole. Wolf explicitly proposed eliminating this loophole in his speech. Understand correctly: by cutting the rate but closing the Delaware Loophole, Wolf is effectively proposing a tax INCREASE on corporations operating in Pennsylvania.

      The only corporations that will benefit from the cut in the rate are very small businesses that operate only in this state and do not take advantage of the loophole. There was an article in one of the local papers some years back in which it was revealed that one of the Sunseri stores in the Strip District pays the 9.99% corporate income tax, while giants like Toys R Us and Walmart do not.

  2. The personal income tax increase is clever. Wolf cannot propose a graduated income tax, because that is prohibited in the Pennsylvania constitution. During the campaign he proposed a flat, universal exemption for everyone; I have not looked closely enough at his current proposals to see if that’s also in there. But if the exemption is $25,000, that means that everyone with income under $25,000 sees their state personal income tax eliminated, taxes get cut for a swath of people in the middle, and only people with higher incomes actually see the personal income tax increase.

    • I certainly hope you’re right on all of this. I was simply going on Wolf’s words that he was proposing to cut corporate tax rate in half. And we should not be allowing ANY regressive taxes, as I don’t believe we “make up for it” by the increase in contributions. Corporations get off easy in this and every other state and this must stop.

  3. As for the sales tax increase, it’s not great, definitely regressive. BUT the greatly increased state contribution to K-12 education more than makes up for its regressive effects. Every school district in the state gets more money . . . but the poorer ones get more, and the lowest-income homeowners get the most property tax relief as well.

  4. Pingback: Oooh! Scary! What Would Happen if Pennsylvania Passed the Wolf Budget? | gadflyonthewallblog

  5. Pingback: Broken Promises! Pennsylvania Republicans Ready to Renege on Pension Deal Even if It Means Breaking the Law | gadflyonthewallblog

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