Education funding formula unaddressed
In the editorial “Smoke & taxes: Philly schools cash in,” the Tribune-Review correctly assumes laughter; however, it's not the belly laugh the writers imagine.
First, funds raised by the tax result only from cigarettes purchased in Philadelphia; it is not borne by taxpayers throughout the state. The hold=harmless “floor” of $58 million should hopefully rarely fall to the state, but for this year, it projects to be a maximum of $4 million to $8 million.
The Tribune-Review unfortunately did not defend taxpayers and address the byzantine basic education funding formula in Pennsylvania, which level-funds school districts with dwindling enrollment. By some estimates, nearly $1 billion in state education funding is distributed for students who are no longer there.
Pittsburgh currently receives funding based on the 40,000 students it had in 1993, as opposed to the 24,190 students it educates today. As a result, Pittsburgh receives $6,030 per student in basic state aid as opposed to Philadelphia's $5,246 per student.
If the new fair-funding formula was utilized, Pittsburgh would receive nearly $70 million less from the commonwealth, whereas Philadelphia's students are currently losing out on nearly $320 million a year.
I am in complete agreement with the folly of “sin taxes” to fund schools, and I will happily trade our cigarette-tax subsidy for your funding-formula subsidy any day.
The writer is chief financial officer of the School District of Philadelphia.