Philadelphia Inquirer on Tom Wolf’s Education Record: “The story is more complicated than Mission Accomplished.”

Yesterday, The Philadelphia Inquirer did a deep dive on Tom Wolf’s education record and pointed out that he may not be the “Education Governor” he told Pennsylvanians he was going to be when he ran in 2014. The article details how, under Wolf, schools have closed due to a lack of funding, pension payments have sucked up the minimal increases that have been made for basic education and how “property taxpayers continue to pick up most of the tab.”

The story also highlights Scott Wagner’s plan to make record investments in our students and teachers without raising taxes. This stands in stark contrast to the Governor’s plan of running all basic education dollars through the 2016 formula, which will either result in drastic cuts to districts or record tax increases on hardworking Pennsylvanians.

Some highlights from the story can be found below.


‘He’s a liar’: Hot debate over education in Pa. governor’s race
Maddie Hanna and Andrew Seidman
The Philadelphia Inquirer
August 17, 2018

More dollars have flowed from the state to school districts during Wolf’s tenure. But the increase is less than what he aimed to achieve. And it hasn’t covered growing costs to districts, including in Coatesville, where the district has raised property taxes 15 percent in four years.

“Even with the additional funding, there’s still a bigger shift back to the local taxpayers,” said Jeff Ammerman, the business manager in Coatesville. The district closed an elementary school last year and eliminated 30 jobs through attrition.

Though state education spending is up under Wolf, the story is more complicated than Mission Accomplished.

While state education spending has grown by $2 billion since 2015, excluding higher education, nearly two-thirds of the money is going toward school-employee retirement costs, according to an Inquirer and Daily News analysis.

And property taxpayers continue to pick up most of the tab. While Wolf wanted to increase the state’s share of funding for school districts to 50 percent, the state contributed less than 37 percent in 2016-17, the most recent data available.

Wagner, a York County businessman who owns waste-hauling and trucking firms, also has made education a key plank of his campaign. Wagner says Wolf would seek broad tax hikes and shift funding to school districts where the governor is popular. He also says the governor has prioritized public workers’ pensions over student achievement.

The Republican nominee wants to provide grants for high-performing teachers. On Thursday, Wagner announced a plan he says would dramatically increase funding for schools without raising taxes. He wants to privatize alcohol sales and lease the state’s liquor wholesale system, among other measures. High-school graduates “don’t have the skills necessary to compete in today’s economy,” he said in an interview Thursday.

Wagner has attacked Wolf over the governor’s stated support for sending all money to schools through a funding formula enacted in 2016. Doing so would require a redistribution of dollars, forcing deep cuts in many school districts.

Wolf says he would not enact such a change without additional funding

Education advocates don’t fault Wolf for falling short of his goals, crediting him with proposing tax increases to pay for increased school funding.

In addition to the natural gas severance tax, Wolf had called for sales and income tax increases with his first budget plan. The Republican-led legislature blocked the hikes.

Wolf said earlier this summer that he supported running all money for education through a funding formula that targets money to school districts based on need.

But distributing all money through the formula would mean steep cuts for many school districts.

Wolf says he wouldn’t support the change until the state had additional money and got lawmakers’ input. “The goal should be that no school gets a reduction in the investment that the state makes in public education,” Wolf said Tuesday.

Wagner, who has previously said the state spends enough on schools, is proposing $1 billion annually in new education funding. Some of the money would be targeted to grants for high-performing teachers. Wagner says he would also help struggling teachers, with money for mentoring programs.

“The problem that we have now is that the money that is going into the schools is being sucked up by benefits,” Wagner said, adding that he supports more changes to pension benefits for new employees.

“The bottom line is I love teachers,” Wagner said.