Exposing the truth about education funding [column] | Local Voices

Does more money improve student performance in our public schools? This issue is at the center of many political debates in Harrisburg and is central to the high-profile lawsuit in the Commonwealth Court. His answer costs billions of dollars to taxpayers and could affect the future of thousands of students – but some state lawmakers don’t want you to know the answer.

On January 26, the Budget Council buried the report of the state’s non-partisan independent fiscal department. The Independent Fiscal Department has just completed a review by the state Department of Education, which assessed how the level of school funding affects student performance.

Usually, the reports of the Independent Fiscal Authority are widely discussed and debated to help lawmakers – and voters – make sensible decisions. But State MP Matt Bradford, chairman of the House of Representatives Democratic Allocations, led his colleagues to submit a report on education and its findings, postponing it to an obscure government website.

Five days later, on Jan. 31, Democrat lawmakers from both houses of the General Assembly, including Bradford, released a $ 3.75 billion education spending plan, the largest increase in education funding in Pennsylvania’s history. Then, last week, Gov. Tom Wolfe proposed increasing funding for education by nearly $ 2 billion.

This line from a report by the Independent Fiscal Authority summarizes what lawmakers have tried to hide: “Evidence suggests that there is little or no link between current spending per student and the proportion of students on standardized tests.”

Simply put, higher costs alone do not equate to better education outcomes.

Many other studies have come to the same conclusion, the Commonwealth Foundation said in a briefing filed last month on a lawsuit to fund education in the Commonwealth Court. One can see how the conclusion of the Independent Fiscal Office would hinder the Democrats’ spending on education.

Pennsylvania deserves to know the truth, especially when the stakes are so high.

Evidence shows that Pennsylvania spends an average of nearly $ 20,000 on a K-12 student – more than in all but six states. And Pennsylvania Public High School already earns $ 4,200 more than the national average. Inflation-adjusted funding for Pennsylvania’s public schools has increased by a staggering 48% since 2000.

Consider some examples. Philadelphia schools spend $ 19,000 per student, not to mention the recent influx of $ 1.2 billion – or $ 5,800 per child – from the federal government. If more funding really leads to improved learning, it would have already happened. It doesn’t have.

Lancaster County School spends more than $ 22,000 per student, but 90% of eighth graders did not know math and 81% did not know English in the 2017-2018 school year.

If more money doesn’t solve the problem, what will you solve?

Children thrive when they learn in an environment that meets their needs – when their parents have the right to choose where, how and who to raise their child. Academic research shows a positive impact on learning from private school choice programs and concomitant improvement in public schools through healthy competition.

Pennsylvania also offers parents a choice of education – mostly through tax credit scholarship programs and public charter schools – but this choice has arbitrary government restrictions. In 2020, Pennsylvania parents filed a record 137,000 applications for scholarships on tax credits. About 75,000, or 55%, of those restrictions imposed by the government were rejected. And $ 100 million in private scholarships remain unused because of these arbitrary restrictions.

Applicants to charter schools are also widely on waiting lists due to overly restrictive rules. Approximately 30,000 children are denied access to charter schools each year in Philadelphia alone.

When parents have options, they don’t just choose the school that spends the most. Rather, they are looking for the best for their children. Schools with low rates should focus on what families want, not on the false demands of a broken educational bureaucracy “money equals success”.

One new proposal in State House Bill 2169 called Lifeline Scholarships will allow parents in school districts with low success to direct their child’s share of public dollars to education on an option that works for them. The bill’s sponsors, state representative Martin White, R-Philadelphia, and Clint Owlet, R-Tioga, want the system to work for children, not the other way around. They know that pouring more money into a defective system is a recipe for failure and that students ’success depends on choices tailored to each child and family.

The Pennsylvania school system doesn’t need more money. It is necessary to return to the choice of parents over the academic future of their children.

Stephen Bloom, a former state representative, is vice president of the Commonwealth Foundation, a free market think tank in Pennsylvania. Twitter: @StephenLBloom and @ Liberty4pa.

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