Third and State

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Updated: 6 min 15 sec ago

Need a data-driven break from the election? Let's talk education funding...

April 26, 2016 - 11:42am

For the education data geeks out there (admit it, you're probably one) here is data comparing new classroom funding (in budget geek speak that's the basic education subsidy plus the ready to learn block grant) by school district as proposed under the bi-partisan budget framework versus the same funding under the final budget for 2015-16.

For those of you who have already blocked out the last four months of education policy back-and-forth, the bi-partisan budget framework proposed increasing classroom funding in 2015-16 by $377 million. What finally became law only boosted education funding by $202 million. 

The excel file that you can download here gives you a table of funding amounts by school district. It also lets you build your own graph like the one below for your school district, and finally presents our graphical analysis of the changes in funding after breaking down school districts by poverty status (new funding by poverty / cuts remaining by poverty). 

The resolution of the 2016-17 budget should be oodles of fun now go vote!

KRC/PBPC's Insider News 4/22/16

April 22, 2016 - 3:59pm

April 22, 2016

The Insider News is a weekly look at the work of the Keystone Research Center and the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center.


20th Anniversary Conference

Are you registered yet for KRC’s 20th Anniversary Conference? It's just around the corner — June 8-9 — and it's going to be amazing. We'll celebrate 20 years of progressive economic activism and kick off KRC’s next decade of collaboration with statewide and local partners to achieve a Pennsylvania economy that works for all. Speakers include Saru Jayaraman, Restaurant Opportunity Centers United, and Carmen Rojas, The Workers Lab. Plus two dozen interactive workshops and hundreds of your friends and colleagues.

We just launched a new website where we’ll be continually updating the speakers list, the agenda, and much more information about the conference. Check it out here.

Join us for the conference — and think about becoming a sponsor. There are lots of sponsorship and advertising opportunities, big and small. Check them out here orcontact Stephanie Frank for more information.

Space is limited, so register today!

Pennsylvania’s Choice


Last week, we told you about the launch of the Pennsylvania's Choice campaign. A diverse collection of organizations from across the state, including education advocates, community service organizations, faith-based groups, environmental groups and labor organizations have come together to bring attention to the devastating consequences of budget cuts across the commonwealth and to advocate for a Pennsylvania budget that best serves the people. 

Since last week, we've added new member organizations and held planning meetings with organizers in 31 districts across the state.

One ask — if you haven't already done so, please sign up for updates and information by clicking here.

This is the best way for you to stay informed about campaign activities and opportunities to engage. Please sign up!


This Week's PBPC Podcast

On this week's podcast, we welcome SEIU 668 President Tom Herman to talk about how budget uncertainty affects his members across the state, and why SEIU 668 felt it was so important to join the Pennsylvania's Choice budget campaign.

You can listen to Episode 7 here.

You can follow and subscribe to all our podcasts in the iTunes store here, or on Soundcloud here



On Monday, May 2 the Campaign for Fair Education Funding along with parents, students, teachers, and school and community leaders from across the state will rally for fair education funding at the state Capitol in Harrisburg.

WHO:  The Campaign for Fair Education Funding
WHAT:  Rally for Fair Education Funding
WHERE:  The state Capitol, Harrisburg
WHEN:  Monday, May 2 (12:30 p.m. press conference in the Main Rotunda)
WHY:  There is no more pressing issue facing lawmakers than fixing Pennsylvania's broken public school funding system

Want to join? Fill out this form and someone from the Campaign will be in touch with you!


 KRC/PBPC In The News


PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS - Commentary: Those feeling brunt of soda tax will also feel benefits

By Marc Stier - The sugary-drink tax proposed by Mayor Kenney, also known as the "soda tax," is controversial because it takes a greater share of the income from poor families than rich ones. And since we at the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center are fundamentally committed to economic justice, we are always inclined to be suspicious of taxes that do that.

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 PCN ON THE ISSUES - Marc Stier on the Budget, Revenue, and PA's Choice

PBPC Director Marc Stier appeared on PCN this week to talk about the budget and PBPC's recent paper about options for new revenue. Video of the interview is behind a paywall, but available on the PNC Select site.

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TIMES LEADER - Pennsylvania lags behind other states in raising minimum wage

According to John Dodds, the Keystone Research Center has estimated that the increase in wages would generate $121.5 million though income and sales taxes.

“We can help better the lives of 1.2 million low-wage workers who have gone without a state increase in the minimum wage since 2007,” said Dodds, who believes Republican leadership is blocking legislation and preventing a vote on the issue.

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THE RICK SMITH SHOW - Marc Stier tells PA voters that they have a voice at

Marc Stier, Director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, discusses the Pennsylvania Choice Campaign and why telling stories about the effects of budget cuts can move the needle in Harrisburg.

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Global...and Pennsylvania...Fight for $15 Still Growing This 4-15

April 15, 2016 - 4:03pm

Today is April 15, also known as "4-15."

In 300 cities in 40 countries today fast food workers are driving home the point that "McJobscost us all." Pennsylvania workers in multiple service industries are now very active in the Fight for $15.

For example, nearly 5,00 nursing home workers at 42 nursing facilities in Pennsylvania recently achieved contracts that lift their wages to $15 per hour over time. KRC reports released two days before "4-15" in 2015 and on November 9 made the case for this increase.

Just a couple of weeks ago, UPMC in Pittsburgh announced it will increase wages to $15 per hour as noted in this KRC statement and this Pittsburgh Post-Gazette column quoting KRC.

Airport workers in Philadelphia, fast-food workers, security guards and janitors have also been active and achieving victories in the Pennsylvania Fight for $15...with organizing efforts building in home care and child care.

Check out this graphic (also copied below) from the Center for American Progress, which explains how important the "and a union" part of the phrase "Fight for $15 and a union is." You see, $15 per hour in the near term would be a massive gain that drastically expands the number of living-wage jobs. But "and a union" — unions that once again represent at least 35% of the workforce anchored service industries that can't relocate — would make tens of millions of McJobs part of the middle class permanently.

Hats off to the Fight for $15 workers in Pennsylvania and across the country for helping to save America from itself and lighting the fire that eliminate the scourge of inequality from our job market, or political system, our communities, and our schools.

End Harrisburg’s School Funding Hunger Games

April 15, 2016 - 1:56pm

Over the past five years, Harrisburg has mastered the art of pitting school districts, parents, and students against each other in order to draw attention away from the damage their policies and the lack of adequate state education funding have inflicted on children, schools, and communities throughout the Commonwealth.

In the 2015-2016 budget, lawmakers tossed out a handful of crumbs in new state dollars to school districts desperate for state funding. They then proceeded to encourage school districts and parents to fight over these crumbs by telling Pennsylvanians that there would be winners and losers in the 2015-2016 budget, depending on how this new money was distributed.

Creating a school funding Hunger Games and manipulating schools districts and parents to fight against each other for crumbs has been a brilliant political move for lawmakers who don’t support funding education.  So many school districts and parents have been focused on who gets more and who gets less, that most have failed to notice that every single school district in Pennsylvania is a loser with the 2015-2016 budget, no matter how the funding is distributed.

Lawmakers who support the 2015-2016 budget have good reasons for wanting to distract people from closely examining  this document.

The 2015-2016 budget, which is a creature of the Republican Party, contains a meager increase for schools that is less than 2%. This increase doesn’t pay for the state-mandated cost increases all school district will face, let alone allow school districts to begin rebuilding their schools after years of deep cuts in opportunities for children.

This budget fails to address Pennsylvania’s charter school law, which Auditor General Eugene DePasquale recently called, “the worst in the United States.” This budget continues to send about $200 million in state funding intended for children with special needs to charter schools to be used to pay their operating expenses This budget proposes to pay for construction reimbursement payments owed to school districts by issuing $2.5 billion in bonds and incurring at least $1.5 BILLION in interest payments and bank fees. Lawmakers have not shared how they plan to pay off this substantial new debt.

Harrisburg’s 2015-2016 budget ensures that Pennsylvania will continue to have the shameful distinction of having the most inequitable school funding in the nation, where our poorest students receive the fewest opportunities. In fact, if lawmakers continue to provide this level of state funding increase in future budgets, they will ensure that children in preschool today will graduate from high school before the inequities in Pennsylvania’s school funding system are fixed.

While Harrisburg continues to haggle over how to distribute the crumbs in this state budget, it is time for Pennsylvanians who believe all children deserve a chance to get a quality education to stop fighting against each other in our districts and instead focus our attention on the Capitol. We must hold lawmakers accountable for the decisions they make that hurt our children and our schools and put an end to Harrisburg’s school funding Hunger Games.

This is a guest post from Susan Spicka, Director of Education Voters of Pennsylvania. It was originally posted at their blog here.

Diverse Coalition of Organizations Launch "PA's Choice" Budget Campaign

April 13, 2016 - 2:39pm

A diverse coalition of groups from across the state, including education advocates, community service organizations, faith-based groups, environmental groups and labor organizations launched the "Pennsylvania's Choice" campaign today to bring attention to the devastating consequences of budget cuts across the commonwealth and to advocate for a Pennsylvania budget that best serves the people.

If Pennsylvania continues to enact unbalanced state budgets, the commonwealth will run a deficit that grows every year. Without new tax revenues, Pennsylvania will not be able to maintain the needed funding for education, human services, the environment, or community and economic development.  

"Pennsylvania's Choice" partners will be organizing in areas across the state, bringing together community members to make clear to elected officials that, if the state cannot secure new revenues, these communities will face devastating cutbacks to programs in these and other areas that are critical to Pennsylvanians every single day. 

Utilizing earned media events, digital media and face-to-face meetings, the campaign will be highlighting stories of how budget cuts — and continued threats of additional budget cuts — are affecting Pennsylvanians from rural communities, to suburban towns to big cities.

Many of the partner organizations were in Harrisburg today for a kick-off press conference:

Marc Stier, Director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center explained the genesis of the campaign: “We’ve come together because it is time to face the reality of the fiscal cliff. We’ve come together because the time for budget balanced in name only is over. We’ve come together because we must avoid the devastating cuts that would be necessary to balance the budget without new revenues. We’ve come together because we know that it is possible to raise new revenues without putting the burden on Pennsylvania’s middle class. And while we call the campaign ‘Pennsylvania’s Choice,’ we’ve come together because we know that the truth is we really have no choice. We must deal with the fiscal crisis honestly and transparently. Or we will all suffer terribly.”

“The Arc of Pennsylvania supports a budget which protects and enhances the right of people with disabilities to live, learn, work, and thrive in their communities,” said Ashlinn Masland-Sarani, Policy and Development Director for The Arc of Pennsylvania. “The Arc of PA and its members believe that providing community access to people with disabilities and supporting their families is a core responsibility of our state government.”

"The people of Pennsylvania have a right to clean air, pure water, and the preservation of the environment - that right is compromised if the lead agency charged with upholding it can't even afford to fill necessary vacant positions. The Department of Environmental Protection has been systematically underfunded for years, and we cannot allow that to happen again in 2016,” said Sierra Club - Pennsylvania Director Joanne Kilgour.

"We can no longer afford to continue down the same path of papering over the problem with accounting gimmicks unsustainable revenues and empty rhetoric. Our children cannot afford it. Our communities cannot afford it. Our Commonwealth cannot afford it,” said JoAnne Sessa, Secretary-Treasurer, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 668.

“The 2015-2016 budget embodies the absolute failure of our state government both to meet the needs of Pennsylvania's public school students and to pay the obligations the Commonwealth owes to school districts in construction reimbursement payments,” said Susan Spicka, Director of Education Voters of Pennsylvania. “With this budget many schools will experience a substantial decrease in money available to support academic programs and services for students and communities will shoulder significant additional costs, as the state has shifted a considerable financial obligation onto the shoulders of local taxpayers. Education Voters of PA is joining together with the diverse coalition that makes up the PA’s Choice campaign so that we can work together to ensure that the travesty of the 2015-2016 budget does not repeat itself.”

Learn more about the campaign at

Organizations Supporting “Pennsylvania’s Choice”

                The Arc of Pennsylvania

                Bucks County Women’s Advocacy Coalition

                Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley

                Consumer Health Coalition

                Education Rights Network

                Education Voters of Pennsylvania

                Great Public Schools Pittsburgh

                Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger

                Hunger-Free Pennsylvania

                Just Harvest

                Keystone Progress

                Mental Health Association of Northwestern Pennsylvania

                Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania

                Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania

                One Pittsburgh

                Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center

                Pennsylvania Council of Churches

                Pennsylvania Food Banks

                Pennsylvania Health Access Network

                Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers’ Association

                Pennsylvania State Education Association

                Philadelphia Federation of Teachers

                Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers

                Public Citizens for Children and Youth

                SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania

                Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 668

                Sierra Club - Pennsylvania Chapter

                Unitarian-Universalist Pennsylvania Legislative Advocacy Network (UUPLAN)