Pennsylvania’s Republican-dominated legislature negotiated a budget deal for the 2016-17 fiscal year last week that was ultimately passed without Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s signature, according to the Associated Press.
K-12 education funding has taken center stage in the Keystone State. Wolf, who was elected in 2015, has pledged to eradicate the gap between the amount of money the state gives to wealthy and poor districts. Republicans in the state have pledged not to raise taxes.
Last fiscal year, the state went an entire nine months without a budget, holding up millions of dollars in public education funding. At one point, after months of taking out emergency loans, several charter and public school leaders said they’d have to close their school doors, a threat that never came to be.
The budget passed last week makes some significant changes to the state’s funding formula. Under the new formula, the state’s poorest districts will receive an average of $208 more per student, and wealthy districts will get $50 more per student.
Despite the fact, many superintendents in the state told local media that they will still have to make cuts because the increases don’t make up for the dramatic cuts the state made during the recession.
I wrote about district cuts amid state increases earlier this year in a profile about an Iowa district’s superintendent who vowed to break state law this fall after years of complaining about that state’s funding formula.
Other changes made to the Pennsylvania budget include a $30 million increase for statewide pre-K and a $20 million increase in special education funding.
In order to increase K-12 funding, the state passed new taxes on digital downloads and tobacco products, a tax Wolf says falls disproportionately on the state’s poorest residents. Although he refused to sign the budget deal because of his opposition to the revenue model, the budget will still become law, according to the state’s constitution.
In all, the state’s public schools will get close to $6 billion, an increase of $200 million over last year’s budget.
A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.