Government That Works
On Wednesday, Gov. Tom Wolf finally unveiled how the “historic investment in education” that has been a cornerstone of his campaign would be distributed, and it isn’t good news for York County.

Wolf is proposing $506 million in new K-12 spending, with nearly one-third, 32 percent, of all of that money going to the Philadelphia School District. The next school district in line for “most” of that new money would be Pittsburgh at 3 percent.

And how much would York City, one of the poorest school districts in the state, get? Wolf’s proposal sends the York City School District a paltry 1.1 percent in new funding. How’s that for a “historic investment” in education?

But the hypocrisy gets worse.

Last week, Philadelphia City Council voted to provide $70 million for the city’s schools. That is far less than the $103 million the district requested. Moreover, only $45 million of that money is guaranteed. In a financial cat’s cradle that can only occur in Philadelphia, the rest of the money must be allocated to council's own budget and then be transferred to the district after council reconvenes in September. Stay tuned on that.

This is nothing new. Philadelphia typically underfunds its schools every year and then has its delegation in the General Assembly hold the state budget hostage for another $30 million-or-so in order to avoid raising the city’s school property taxes to the levels the rest of us have to pay.

Let’s take a look at how the rest of York County’s school districts fare under Wolf’s historic investment in education:

West Shore SD - 0.28 percent
Red Lion Area SD - 0.25 percent
Northeastern York SD - 0.16 percent
Dallastown Area SD - 0.15 percent
Spring Grove Area SD - 0.14 percent
Dover Area SD - 0.13 percent
South Western SD - 0.13 percent
South Eastern SD - 0.13 percent
West York Area SD - 0.12 percent
Central York SD - 0.11 percent
Eastern York SD - 0.11 percent
Northern York County SD - 0.10 percent
Southern York County SD - 0.10 percent
Hanover Public SD - 0.07 percent
York Suburban SD - 0.06 percent

Aside from York County’s children and property taxpayers being terribly shortchanged, where will all this new money for Wolf’s historic investment in Philadelphia schools come from? Primarily, it comes from hiking taxes on small businesses and the middle class.

The governor’s plan would increase the state’s Personal Income Tax by more than 20 percent, increase the Sales and Use Tax by 10 percent, and subject items such as diapers, day care expenses, domestic violence shelters, professional services, and nursing home care to sales tax for the first time in Pennsylvania’s history. Our most vulnerable citizens would suffer greatly under these increased and expanded levies.

That’s right, Wolf wants every single Pennsylvanian to pay higher income taxes and higher sales taxes in order to throw more of your money at one of the worst performing school districts in the state without asking that the district make a single reform to fix what is wrong.  

To appropriate Wolf’s own slogans, this is not #governmentthatworks or #schoolsthatteach. It is the status quo in the worst way – throwing good money after bad, continuing to underfund the very school districts that need the most help and forcing property tax hikes on everyone except those who live in the city of Philadelphia.

The General Assembly plans to have a good budget on Wolf’s desk by Tuesday, the June 30 deadline. For the fifth straight year, this budget will increase state dollars for K-12 public education without raising taxes. The next step will be up to Wolf. A government that works requires a budget that is signed.

Rep. Stan Saylor is the chairman of the House Education Committee

Rep. Stan Saylor
94th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
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