During my years as a teacher, I have seen clearly the connection between school resources and student success, given that education is the foundation for the future – the future of each child, each community and our nation. That is why every child is promised an adequate education in Pennsylvania’s constitution:
“The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth.” Article III, Section 14, Pennsylvania Constitution
But the way we pay for education is unfair. It relies too much on property taxes. It rewards failure for reasons of ideology. It underserves many children, especially the poor, and it doesn’t put the needs of children first.
We need new strategies for funding education. Each student in every area of our commonwealth needs outstanding teachers, efficient schools, a thorough curriculum, and programs including nutrition and pre-school that are vital for students to grow, learn, and succeed for the long run. And education is essential for a well- prepared workforce.
The bottom-line reason that property taxes continue to rise is simple: The state of Pennsylvania doesn’t put up its fair share of funding for public schools.
In PA, the state pays about one-third of the cost of public schools. In the US, the average state share is over 50%. Just that difference – between one-third and 50% – means billions in higher property taxes for PA homeowners and businesses.
Only the state legislature can fix this problem, and I will work with others, Republicans and Democrats alike, to make that happen over a period of five years – a rise in our ranking of just 3 percentage points a year. And as state revenues increase toward full funding of our schools, I will support reducing property taxes appropriately.
Pennsylvania’s system for holding schools accountable is not functioning the way that it should. Different rules apply to different schools. Records that are easy to get for traditional public schools are hard to get for charter schools. Parents, faced with more educational choices for their children than ever before, cannot compare schools with confidence. And taxpayers – all of us – don’t have an easy way to know whether we’re getting value for our taxes.
Pennsylvania needs a standard requirement for accountability that applies to all schools. Every school that receives public funds should have to play by the same rules of accountability and transparency. Then parents will be able to make informed choices for their children, and taxpayers will be able to make informed judgments about whether they receive value for their money.
Charter Schools Get Special Treatment
Local taxes provide 100% of the cost of charter schools. The state provides nothing. Yet local school boards are required by state law to make payments to failing charter schools.
No PA cyber charter school has ever made a passing grade on the state’s School Performance Profiles. Yet they get paid first with 100% local taxes.
As part of an improved accountability system, I will push to give school boards the power to stop paying charter schools that have a record of persistent failure. If the state wants to keep these schools open, it should use state tax dollars, not local property taxes.
No one knows for sure what the economy of the future will look like, but we know it will rely on a sound infrastructure that will need to be maintained and upgraded, from plumbing to broadband. These are some of the trade and technical careers that are increasing in demand. We can do better by the students who pursue them – and by the employers who hire them.
Whenever possible, high schools and potential employers should work together to ensure graduates are job-ready the day they walk across the stage. As much as possible, programs should include opportunities for internships, apprenticeships and mentorship, and graduation should include both a diploma and a certificate of achievement in an appropriate field so that the graduate can more easily enter the workforce in a timely way.
Local, county and state offices should be able to provide enhanced access to and sharing of information for both job seekers and employers. On-line connections among unemployed, working poor, employers, schools, government bodies and community service providers need improvement.