This election year, we’ll repeatedly hear from Democrats that “democracy is at stake,” and the only way to preserve it is to elect Democrats.
But one thing you won’t hear from Pennsylvania Democrats is the Left’s plan to foist a $6 billion tax hike—about $2,000 per family of four, according to a Commonwealth Foundation analysis—on Pennsylvanians. While the presidential race will hog the limelight, our state legislative elections will have a bigger impact on your family budget.
That’s because Democrat lawmakers are pushing for a $6 billion tax increase, purportedly for “education.” And if Democrats (who are also school union funded) take control of the Pennsylvania Senate and keep the Pennsylvania House, you can bet they’ll send this tax increase to Gov. Shapiro’s ready pen.
Democrats claim they need this $6 billion to adequately fund our bureaucratic education system.
Don’t buy it.
For more than a decade, the Left has tossed out number after even higher numbers of the supposed amount needed to fix our schools. Meanwhile, taxpayers have delivered far more than the amount demanded, but too much is never enough for the Public School Gimme Gang.
In 2014, the William Penn School District launched a lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania’s system of funding education. In court, the plaintiffs pointed to a single 2007 self-serving study that concluded $4.6 billion more was needed.
In its ruling last year declaring our system of funding education unconstitutional, the Commonwealth Court was not convinced of the $4.6 billion figure and, in fact, highlighted that its opinion does not “require reform to be entirely financial…. The options for reform are virtually limitless.” In short, the court did not order additional education funding.
Not to be dissuaded, the Left came up with a new figure—$6.2 billion—which they presented last year to the Basic Education Funding Commission. Democrats on the commission heard their marching orders and issued a partisan report calling for billions in new spending.
Disturbingly, the report also called for cuts to public charter and cyber schools, which serve thousands of Pennsylvania public school students. This shows the Left’s priority isn’t to help kids but to line the pockets of the unions, bureaucrats, and special interest groups that benefit from the union-operated school system.
But here’s what the Left won’t tell you. Over the past decade, total revenue for the commonwealth’s school districts has increased by $11.9 billion, while state support for public schools in Pennsylvania has increased by $5.9 billion. Taxpayers have given schools far more than the original and even revised supposed ‘need.’
The 2007 study said per-student spending needed to rise by about $2,500 to $12,057. Since then, per-student spending in Pennsylvania has risen by more than $12,000 to over $21,000 per student—the 7th highest in the nation and more than $5,000 higher than the national average.
We often hear about spending disparities among schools, yet much of this stems from so-called “hold harmless” provisions, which mandate that schools never receive less funding even if their enrollment dramatically declines. Meanwhile, schools with growing enrollments lose out on funding, as it’s not tied to enrollment. Unfortunately, many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle resist eliminating hold harmless for fear of optics in their districts.
Unfortunately, yet predictably, historic levels of spending on public education in Pennsylvania have not yielded the desired results. Thousands of kids are still trapped in crummy union-run schools.
If you’re a medical patient going to bad hospitals, you can pay them higher and higher fees until you’re blue in the face. They’ll still be bad hospitals. The solution isn’t higher medical bills. It’s different medical providers.
Similarly, the education solution in Pennsylvania isn’t more money—it’s more options.
Yet, these same progressive union lobbyists who want billions of dollars in tax hikes balk at empowering parents to choose the educational options that will meet children’s needs—a reform that could be implemented with zero additional tax dollars. Such reform would be a reality now had union-backed House Democrats not convinced Gov. Shapiro to betray his word and veto Lifeline Scholarships in the 2023-24 state budget.
Now, as election season heats up, we’ll undoubtedly hear a lot from candidates for state office about how they want to “invest in education.” The fact is that Pennsylvania’s public school spending is already at a historic high. And Democrats’ rhetoric is simply code for: “We’re going to raise your taxes.”
In 2024, national races will, of course, be extremely important. But let’s not for one minute forget the impact of state races. And let’s ensure we elect lawmakers who will support real solutions for education—so you won’t be hit with a $6 billion tax hike that does nothing to help kids.
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