A fact-check of education funding in Pennsylvania

A fact-check of education funding in Pennsylvania

Lieutenant Governor Jim Cawley has come out swinging, calling campaign ads that claim Governor Corbett cut education by a billion dollars "a damned lie."

You've seen the ads of gubernatorial candidates scrapping over education spending.

"Corbett cut a billion dollars from education," says Tom Wolf in his latest ad.

Governor Tom Corbett's wife counters that claim in another ad. "He has increased spending in the education department $1.5 billion over what it was when he came into office," said Susan Corbett.

To find out what Governor Tom Corbett has spent on education, we must first go back to his predecessor Governor Ed Rendell.

According to the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, in his final budget, Governor Ed Rendell decreased the state contribution to education by roughly $656 million and replaced it with federal stimulus dollars.

"But that was a one time budget transfusion. State and local governments had to plan for its coming to an end," said John Kincaid, director of the Meyner Center for the study of state and local government.

Kincaid says in a tight economy, the incoming governor would have to take a billion dollars from elsewhere in the budget, raise taxes or do what Corbett did.

Over the course of four years, Corbett slowly increased the state's contribution.

Even so, the funding levels have not reached the 2008 numbers posted by Rendell.

And what of Corbett's claim he has increased education funding by $1.5 billion?

If you factor in teacher pensions, Corbett can truthfully claim his current education budget is higher than in the Rendell years, even though, again, classroom spending minus pensions is not at 2008 levels.

The Wolf campaign has argued that pensions shouldn't be factored into classroom dollars.

Kincaid says no matter who wins in November, funding education is going to become even more complicated.

"The budget squeeze is getting worse and worse and not better and the choices about how to allocate funding and keeping taxes reasonable and in line is going to become more and more difficult for whoever is in office," said Kincaid.

If you break the numbers down, Rendell and Corbett both spent about the same percentage of the overall state budget on the classroom, just under 32 percent.

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