Last month I presented part of a report by the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators and the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials that detailed the devastating impacts that PA Republicans’ slashing of education funding in the last few years has had on our state’s public schools. Now, the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center has put out a new policy brief exposing the details of those cuts as compared with prison funding, which PA Republicans evidently think is a much more important priority than education.
Debunking a very commonly recited conservative talking point about education funding in PA, they write quote, “An argument that education cuts were driven by the loss of temporary federal funds [from the 2009 stimulus package to prevent an economic depression following the 2008 financial crisis] misses a significant fact – expired federal funds were replaced almost dollar for dollar with state funds in other departments but not in education. In 2011-12, the same year large education cuts were imposed, $187 million in temporary federal funding was replaced with state dollars in the Department of Corrections budget.”
This graph shows prisons getting increased funding above stimulus levels in each of the last four years in the pair of bars on the left, but in the pair of bars showing education funding on the right, we see that at first barely half of stimulus funds for education were replaced, and we’re still coming up short in replacing them by a significant amount. Which means a smaller public workforce contributing to the state economy and fewer educational opportunities for our youth.
The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center policy brief also includes another graph that even more clearly squashes the conservative refrain that they weren’t really education cuts, they were just temporary federal funds that went away.
This graph shows that in inflation-adjusted dollars, the state spent well over $10 million per year on education in 2007 through 2009, which was before the temporary stimulus funds were added in 2009 through 2011, and that state education funding levels after the temporary stimulus funds expired have been even less than they were before they were added in the first place, under or just barely $10 million per year.
So please, next time you hear a conservative talking about how PA Republicans didn’t really cut education funding and it was all just a misunderstanding regarding temporary stimulus funds, feel free to refer them to this policy brief, or this video.