By Dustin Slaughter
The Notebook‘s Paul Jablow tackles a range of commonly-asked questions regarding Philadelphia’s school funding. Among them:
Doesn’t Philadelphia get a huge share of state education aid already?
House Majority Leader Mike Turzai made the point when he met with District Superintendent William Hite in August that the city has 12 percent of the state’s school population but receives 18 percent of the state’s basic education subsidy. But Matthew Stanski, Hite’s finance director, says that these numbers alone don’t capture the reality. He gives several reasons. First, Pennsylvania chips in a smaller share of education funding than most other states, so there is less state aid to balance out inequities between districts. But more important, he said, Philadelphia educates more children from low-income backgrounds than any other district. More than 80 percent of Philadelphia students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, almost twice the statewide average of 43 percent. Such a high concentration of poverty comes with added costs to a school district.
Doesn’t Philadelphia spend a lot more on education than other districts?
In an absolute sense, it obviously spends more, because it educates 12 percent of the students in a state with 500 mostly tiny school districts. The next largest district, Pittsburgh, is about one-eighth the size, with just over 25,000 students. But on a per pupil basis, Philadelphia’s spending is nowhere near the top statewide. In 2012-13, the $14,361 it spent per pupil was $256 below the average district expenditure. That ranks it 214th of 500 districts, and its rank has been slipping.
In comparison with other big cities around the country outside of the South, Philadelphia’s per-pupil spending is relatively low – about the same as Chicago, but lower than New York City, Detroit, Boston, Baltimore and Milwaukee.