School funding: Reform pensions

The relentless push by some Pennsylvania lawmakers, citizen groups and Gov. Wolf to increase public school funding ignores an inconvenient fact based on the latest expenditure and revenue figures released by the state’s Department of Education:

For the 2013-14 school year, spending by Pennsylvania’s school districts hit an all-time high, totaling $26.1 billion — a $600 million increase over the previous year.

The fact is, school spending has steadily increased over the last five years with the exception of 2011-12, when the temporary federal stimulus ended, according to state figures analyzed by the Commonwealth Foundation.

On pace as well is state revenue to school districts, which in 2013-14 came to $9.7 billion, another record.

But as taxpayers pour more money into public schools, school district pension contributions are taking more money out. In 2008-09, districts spent $562 million on pension contributions, according to state figures. In 2013-14, that figure ballooned to $1.9 billion. In just five years, schools have seen more than a three-fold increase in pension contributions.

Yet school funding, as a state priority, tops pension reform in public opinion polls.

Lawmakers and Gov. Wolf are doing taxpayers no favors by continually increasing school funding without first addressing where the money goes. A more responsible course begins with public pension reform.

Author: The Tribune-ReviewPublication: TribLIVE