Within the next several days it is likely the Pennsylvania legislature will have finalized the operating budget for the fiscal year July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013. This will be the second year in a row, and only the second in the last decade, where the budget is on-time and only spends existing state revenues.
But to accomplish a balanced budget there has been some rearranging of the state's spending priorities - purposeful efforts to make our state spending and delivery of funds more efficient. One of the areas of continuing discussion in the budget is education funding, and specifically the state education subsidy for K-12. It is instructive for all of us to take a look at the facts, so let's look at the last decade of the state education subsidy for K-12 (all numbers are rounded).
- 2002 --$4 billion
- 2003 - $4.2 billion
- 2004 - $4.36 billion
- 2005 - $4.49 billion
- 2006 - $4.78 billion
- 2007 - $4.95 billion
- 2008 - $5.2 billion
- 2009 - $4.8 billion
- 2010 - $4.75 billion
- 2011 - $5.35 billion
- And proposed for 2012 - $5.42 billion
A review of data shows the subsidy was actually reduced in the years 2009 and 2010, but the subsidy was fully restored and increased to its highest level ever in 2011, and the 2012 amount is fully expected to become the highest level of funding ever for the K-12 subsidy! Equally important, student enrollment has been decreasing across the state during this same ten year period, which means the funding per student has been increasing.
So then, why do some complain that the subsidy is being cut? The federally provided stimulus dollars have gone away, plain and simple. Actually, the stimulus funds were added to the subsidy in 2009 and 2010 to create an illusion that the subsidy had been increased to $5.5 billion in 2009 and to $5.77 billion in 2010. But everyone in our nation realized the stimulus was a two-year cash infusion. Yet there are those who argue that we have cut funding, simply because the federal stimulus dollars have disappeared.
You take a look at the data and you decide.
Remember, last year, with no new taxes, and with an inherited deficit of $4.5 billion, we were able to balance the budget and still deliver the highest K-12 subsidy in the state's history. So next time sometime tries to tell you the legislature cut school funding; just show them the data above, and ask them "what cut?"
It's important for all of us to be involved in this debate, but it is just as important that real, factual and credible data be the basis for that debate.