Updated: Jul 25, 2022
Pennsylvania is often said to have a "backward" model for funding public schools. This means that the most significant portion of education funding comes from property and other local taxes, instead of the state. PA is in the bottom 10% in the nation when it comes to money for education coming from the state. This doesn't mean that all of our schools are underfunded, but it does mean that the burden for paying for our schools rests on the local property owner. And when property taxes go up, rent tends to do so too. This affects everyone.
Funding education in this way also means that some school districts can only afford to spend $9,000 per student while other, wealthier districts can afford upwards of $30,000 per student in annual spending. My opponent often likes to talk on social media about how much the school districts in District 6 are spending per student without talking about the challenges they face raising funds for school repairs, technology, special programs, curricula, etc. As someone who vows to always vote against all tax increases, he has essentially passed the buck to the local school boards. In essence, some taxes have to be raised at some point; it's a difficult decision that every legislator needs to make at some point. I'm not the type to pass the buck; I'm the type to get things done.
Another issue facing the public education system of the Commonwealth is Charter School Reform. While some charter schools may be an excellent option for students, the fact of the matter is that many charter schools are not performing to the standards set by the PA Department of Education. The biggest culprit when it comes to underperforming appears to be cyber charter schools.
While some students can benefit from the cyber school experience, underperforming schools make the students' opportunities dwindle. Further, cyber schools have a much lower cost of operation than traditional brick and mortar schools, yet they receive similar funding. Most of this funding is focused on advertising to draw students to these subpar schools. Are we getting our money's worth?
We should demand that all public schools perform to the standards set forth by the DOE in order to receive state funding. But what happens when a school does not? At this point, an investigation into the school's performance must be launched. This isn't like a criminal investigation though; this is what my training calls "Root Cause Investigation." In my private sector job, I work to solve problems by identifying all the symptoms of an issue and digging deeper to find the main cause of all of them. This is the only way to truly fix a problem to the point that it can not happen again. I want to know WHY schools that underperform are having the issues that they do. Then, and only then, can we eliminate the root cause of their performance issues.
Education is crucial to making and keeping Pennsylvania the wonderful place to live that it is. Through education, we are building our citizens of the future, and we hope that they stay here, or at least come back here to raise their families. With a quality education, these growing minds can be the source of new innovations for Pennsylvania industry, and the next generations' great problem solvers.