The Shrinking of Public Education Funding

In 2011, the General Assembly and then-Governor Tom Corbett slashed funding of public education by almost $1 billion. In the years since, Pennsylvania Legislature still has not restored this massive cut to our public schools. 

Thus, Pennsylvania ranks #46 in the nation for state funding of public education. 

School districts and their residents are greatly impacted by the lack of state funding. As many districts in Southeastern Pennsylvania, the school districts in the 151st Legislative District have increased property taxes to fill in the gap left by the state to reduce the impact to our children. 

The Big Expensive Legislature

While Pennsylvania spends less on public education, we have increased spending on our lawmakers.

  • Pennsylvania ranks #1 in the nation for the size of a full-time legislature with 253 legislators.
  • Pennsylvania ranks #2 in the nation for its legislators’ salaries, starting at more than $86,000.
  • For 2017-2018, the budget for the General Assembly is $313 million.  

In 2001, the General Assembly gave themselves a 50% raise in their defined-benefit pensions and reduced the pension system funding. In order to obscure their own benefits and mount a successful lobby, they also increased the pension benefits of state employees and public school employees by 25%.    

In 2010, the General Assembly reduced the pension benefits to the pre-2001 levels for state and public school employees, but made exceptions for certain classifications of employees (including newly elected legislators) allowing them to opt-in to the increased benefits if they agree to higher contributions.  In 2017, Senate Bill 1 was passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Wolf.  This legislation changed the pension system for new employees hired in 2019 and beyond to a 401(k) hybrid reducing their benefits by approximately 10%, but failed to address the pension debt, which is projected for $6.4 billion in the next fiscal year. Again, one group that is exempt from this reform: legislators. 

The Composition of the General Assembly

  • 90% of the General Assembly is white.
  • 82% of the General Assembly are men.
  • 76% of the General Assembly are white men.
  • 0.4% of the General Assembly openly identifies as LGBTQIA (only 1 legislator).

Also like Congress, Pennsylvania’s General Assembly is composed of a disproportionate amount of white men. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania lags behind even the low national average. The 151st Legislative District has never been represented by a woman.

Natural Gas Tax (or lack thereof)

While Pennsylvania does have impact and business taxes, Pennsylvania is the only natural gas producing state in the nation that does not have a separate tax on natural gas (a.k.a. "severance tax").  Implementing a tax between 5% and 6% and dedicating this funding stream to renewable energy sources will put Pennsylvania on the path to eliminate fracking entirely.