From this morning’s New York Times:
According to the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, a nonprofit policy research group, Mr. Corbett has cut close to $1 billion from the state’s education budget. But an administration spokesman said that such an analysis counted some federal stimulus money and that state funding has increased since 2011.
“Is anything ever enough?” said Carolyn C. Dumaresq, acting secretary of education in Pennsylvania and an appointee of Mr. Corbett. “I really think $1.3 billion is a lot of money,” she said, referring to the state’s allocation to Philadelphia, a district of about 131,360 students and close to 60,800 in charter schools. As a former district superintendent, she said, “I could have always found more ways to spend more money, but at some point in time you have to balance that against the taxpayers’ ability to pay.”
Really? $1.3 billion for over 131,000 students is “a lot of money”? For a school district that is 87% minority and impoverished? Where 58% of the students who entered the ninth grade in 2004 graduated four years later?
Ms. Dumaresq should take a gander across the river to New Jersey, polish her spectacles, and get a little context.
According to her numbers, the state of Pennsylvania allocates $9,923 per child in the Philadelphia Public School District . That’s less than almost any district in New Jersey. For school districts that echo the educational needs of Philadelphia students – let’s take Camden, Newark and Trenton – the state of New Jersey kicks in, respectively, $18,656, $17,495, and $17,616 (2014-2015 DOE data).
That’s about twice as much state aid per pupil than Philly. (These numbers don’t reflect other sources of revenue like local taxes, federal grants, IDEA money, Title I money, etc.)
One could, of course, argue that N.J.’s poorest districts get too much money. But it’s really hard to justify Pennsylvania’s miserly allocation to its neediest schoolchildren. And let’s not forget Philadelphia’s School District’s $81 million deficit, only partially ameliorated by the School Reform Commission’s mandate that staff members begin contributing to health care premiums.
From the Times article: “Money is so short at Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences, a public middle school here, that a nurse works only three afternoons a week, leaving the principal to oversee the daily medication of 10 children, including a diabetic who needs insulin shots. On the third floor filled with 200 seventh and eighth graders, one of two restrooms remains locked because there are not enough hall monitors. And in a sixth-grade math class of 33 students with only 11 textbooks to go around, the teacher rations paper used to print out homework equations.”
Ms. Dumaresq needs to get out more.