When Gov. Tom Wolf finally relented and allowed one of the four state budgets passed by the legislature to become law in March, there was a sense of relief that school districts would finally receive the funding that been held hostage for so long.
But that relief was short-lived when the governor implemented his own formula for distributing money for public education — one that picks a only a few winners while providing less money to most areas of the state — including my Senate district.
Rather than using a distribution formula established by a bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission, the governor created his own politically driven plan that cut millions of dollars from rural and suburban districts and directs that money to his political allies.
This distribution is anything but fair and it could result in higher taxes and cuts in school programs here in my district and many other areas of the state.
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Wolf’s plan cut more than $7.3 million in funding for schools in my district. Centre County schools alone were cut by more than $3 million. Bald Eagle Area School District was cut by about $1.25 million; Bellefonte Area School District by about $744,000; Penns Valley Area School District by about $582,000; State College Area School District by about $522,000; and Philipsburg-Osceola Area School District by about $258,000.
Under the governor’s distribution scheme, three school districts will receive $100 million out of the $200 million in new education money, leaving 497 school districts such as ours to split the leftovers. Philadelphia School District alone was gifted $77 million, which is more than $34 million more than under the fair funding formula.
It is hard to understand why the governor would choose to disregard a formula that was designed to bring more equity to education funding in the commonwealth. It was developed after months of public hearings and cooperation among lawmakers, school administrators, education advocates, teachers and parents. The governor even praised the commission, its findings and its formula — only to ignore it in favor of his politically driven plan.
To make matters worse, Wolf also cut funding for a program, commonly known as PlanCon, which would have provided reimbursements to districts for school construction and renovation projects. School districts were counting on this money and if it is not restored taxpayers may bear the burden in higher taxes.
Our schools, students and taxpayers deserve better than this. Wolf talks a good game when it comes to education funding, but his actions speak much louder than this his words. Schools shouldn’t be subject to the governor’s political whims — their mission is far too important. I urge Wolf to put aside his partisanship and agree to fair funding for all our schools.
Jake Corman, R-Benner Township, is state Senate majority leader.