Where In the World Is Tom Wolf’s Education Plan?

The People of Pennsylvania Deserve To Know Whether Governor Supports Drastic Cuts Or Record Tax Increases 

 Last week, 2018 Republican gubernatorial nominee Scott Wagner announced a detailed, substantive plan to make innovative, record investments in Pennsylvania’s students and teachers without raising taxes. Governor Wolf, who last week had his own education record characterized by the Philadelphia Inquirer as “more complicated than Mission Accomplished,” tried to downplay Wagner’s plan, calling it “abracadabra math.”

The Governor, however, has yet to produce a detailed education plan of his own.

Instead, the Governor said in June that he believes that  “all the state basic education money should be run through the fair funding formula.”

  • The following media outlets then pointed out how Wolf’s plan would lead drastic cuts to 70 percent of Pennsylvania school districts:
    • Indiana Gazette
    • Warren Times Observer
    • Uniontown Herald-Standard
    • WJAC 
    • Connellsville Daily Courier
In an effort to quell the backlash that his proposed education cuts were receiving across the commonwealth, Wolf began trying to backtrack, saying he only wants to send all dollars through the 2016 formula when he can pump enough money into the system to ensure that no school loses funding:
  • “Wolf’s aides say he backs a shift when there’s a big enough increase in state aid to put all school aid through the state’s three-year-old funding formula without cutting aid to any single district.” (Associated Press, 7/25/18)
  • “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.” (Inquirer, 8/17/18)

Independent studies show that, to execute Wolf’s walkback idea,  the state would need to put an additional $4 billion into the basic education budget.

And as the Governor’s own spokeswoman put it, Wolf “will continue to fight to increase funding for all schools throughout Pennsylvania,” (PennLive, 8/2/18)

So if the Governor, as he has tried to claim, no longer for cutting funding for 362 school districts, and wants to instead raise $4 billion in additional revenue so he can still run all dollars through the 2016 formula – the next question that needs to be asked is how he will do it.

His own rhetoric shows he’s likely to turn to a massive, broad  based tax increase.

  • “I don’t see how you get there without a broad based tax increase. I’ve been working on that – If I could do that, I would be there in a second because this would be a wonderful thing. And it’s so tempting to be able to appeal to that desire for all the revenues you want so you can spend all the money you want without a tax increase, but we haven’t been able to do it in the past. And there’s a reason for it, you can’t do it. Take anybody that you want and look at it, and unless you’re willing to be deceitful you can’t get to a balanced budget without raising broad based revenues.” (Governor Wolf Press Conference, PennLive, 10/5/15)
  • “Indeed, anyone in this Chamber who claims we can simply cut our way out of this mess without also increasing revenue is just ignoring the math. They’re also ignoring history. If we don’t have sustainable revenue sources in our budget, the result will be billions of dollars in new property tax hikes. Pennsylvanians need to prepare for these consequences. And I do not say this with any joy whatsoever.” (Governor Wolf’s Budget Address, 2/9/16)
  • The Governor’s second term education plan is to run all public education dollars through the 2016 formula.
    • Doing so without investing additional funding into the formula will result in drastic cuts.
  • Wolf is now trying to claim he wants to put enough money into the formula so no schools will receive cuts.
    • This would require up to $4 billion in new revenue.
  • Wolf thinks it’s “deceitful” to make this type of investment without a broad based tax hike – so his walkback plan would require a record tax increase.
While Scott Wagner supports a $1 billion investment in education without raising taxes, Governor Wolf’s new education plan is either drastic cuts for 362 districts, or a record tax hike. Members of the media have the responsibility to ask the Governor which one it is.