Education Funding Inequality: Who to Take the Money From and How To Take It

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Marcy Levy at the AP reported Sunday that what KP readers probably suspected was happening was indeed happening, and the funding gap between rich schools and poor schools doubled during Corbett’s four years in office.

Infuriatingly, Corbett ends the article asking “so who do I take it away from” – a smirking dare to liberals to spell out an unpopular re-redistribution plan.

To my knowledge, none of our elected Democrats in Harrisburg have really offered a satisfying answer to this question yet, so I’ll bite. Here’s who I would take it away from, and how.

Reading Levy’s analysis, there are two main reasons the gap widened. One reason is that, duh, poor school districts had to cut their local funding when Corbett and the majority Republicans started cutting funding from them disproportionately.

The other thing that happened was that Corbett and the Republicans also started giving more state money to already-rich districts. And not only did those already-rich districts have extra state money to increase their spending on their kids, but they also had deeper property tax and income tax bases to draw on to top up their spending even more.

So two things need to happen.

One is that we need a state funding formula that pays out more money to students in poorer and lower middle class districts, and less money to students in rich districts who already have all the advantages.

The “costing out” formula we started using under Ed Rendell took into account the higher needs and unique challenges kids in lower-income districts face, and recognized that they need more funding. Corbett threw that formula in the trash can right in his first budget, with no explanation.

The other problem that falls out of this analysis is that it’s really hard to redistribute the education money when it’s trapped in 500 different (extremely segregated) school tax bases.

The state can’t seize local property tax or income tax revenue from Lower Merion Township’s bank account and deposit it in the Philadelphia School District bank account. But we gotta get that money y’all.

So here’s what we do: We shift the funding ratio from 34% state funding/76% local funding to 50% state funding/50% local funding in Tom Wolf’s first term, and then we push for 100% state funding after that.

100% state funding puts the education money all in one pot, where we can actually have a big democratic fight over who should get it, rather than 500 little pots where we can’t. People in rich regions can afford to contribute more to the education of people in poor regions. The real money is in the rich regions’ property tax and income tax bases, and that’s where we need to take the money from to equalize school funding per pupil.

This entry was posted in Budget, Education, Issues.

5 Responses to Education Funding Inequality: Who to Take the Money From and How To Take It

  1. Frediano says:

    Education, unfortunately, is primarily taken, not given. It is at most, well offered. Your plan assumes that the current unequal outcomes are the results of unequal offering, and not of unequal taking of education. Culture and behavior and attitudes determine the taking, determine the outcomes, determine the resulting disparities in local offering. Your plan is to subsidize failing culture and behavior and attitudes by forceful redistribution from successful culture and behavior, with no accounting for the unequal taking, without addressing the unequal taking, as if, with enough money, it was possible to construct a Golden Education Funnel that will slide something called education painlessly into the gullets of passive students slouching in their seats who, on a good day, barely do exactly what they are told, instead of reaching up out of their seats and going after their own education by the throat. Education is an activity for which it is possible to have a Pareto efficiency higher than 100%; in a classroom of 30, the taking of education does not diminish anyone elses outcome. Far from it, the more students who take their education, the better the eventual outcomes for all.

    Your approach is doomed to fail, it is not targeting the problem; it is subsidizing the problem, and worse, establishing the cultureal meme that the responsibility for failure is the system and not the culture or behaviours or attitudes, precisely crippling those you claim you want to help..

    • Jon Geeting says:

      What a bunch of glibertarian garbage. Obviously resources matter a great deal. Here in Philadelphia, many teachers are so starved for resources that they pay for kids’ supplies and meals out of their own pockets. Funding isn’t the only thing we need to fix with education, and no one is suggesting otherwise. But the resource problem is real, and can in fact be fixed by appropriating more money – at the very least, equal funding per student.

  2. Pam says:

    If money doesn’t matter (as so many conservatives claim), then why throw so much more at the richer school districts? If money really doesn’t matter, why give it to them? Corbett did what he did to benefit the charter school bigwigs and it’s worked really well for them in the York City School District. York is on the verge of going all charter. This week, the Philly Inquirer ran an article about a charter there which closed today with one day of notice. That is exactly why education has to remain public and not a private business. There is no accountability and the private charters can close with no notice, leaving parents and students scrambling.

    • says:

      And if money doesn’t matter, why are tycoons like the Gateses throwing hundreds of millions of dollars at charter schools? Obviously, for them, it’s about ideology, not efficient education.

  3. newrouter says:

    >but they also had deeper property tax and income tax bases to draw on to top up their spending even more.<

    Coveting your fellow citizens property is bad for your soul and your argument.