A report compiled by the state’s largest teachers union is linking education funding cuts to lower student achievement.
The Pennsylvania State Education Association says standardized test scores dropped in reading and math for third- through sixth-graders in the school years 2010-11 through 2012-13, according to state data.The examined period includes the year before Gov. Tom Corbett took office and the first two years of his term.
This is the first report of its kind, and PSEA researchers said it’s being released now because it took a while for them to get the right data. That said, the organization is a big political spender, and an unrelenting critic of Corbett.
“We didn’t time it this way, it was just, we had the research,” said President Mike Crossey. “The fact that it’s coming out in a political season, you know, I’m certain that it’ll be used politically.”
Tim Eller, spokesman for the Department of Education, said the report lacks credibility because of its source.
“What they’re trying to do here is something that’s been going on for a number of years with the public education establishment side,” said Eller. “They continue to lay the loss of federal stimulus funding on the governor’s doorstep.”
The administration maintains that overall funding for schools dropped under Corbett because the education budget had been propped up with federal stimulus dollars that disappeared when the governor took office.
Eller said another flaw in the study is its reliance on standardized tests alone as a measure of student achievement.
“One single test score is not indicative of how students are performing,” he said. The administration has begun using a different tool for measuring schools that includes test scores, as well as teacher evaluations, student attendance, and graduation rates.
The PSEA study also finds drops in education spending were greater in school districts with higher shares of poor students.
“This analysis confirms previous work that found that these cuts have increased in magnitude along with school district poverty,” the report states. “That is because the poorest districts are the most reliant on state funding and have the least ability to replace it.”
In the interest of disclosure, PSEA provides funding for WHYY’s coverage of state government issues.