Wagner, Wolf volley back and forth on education

Wagner and Wolf both say the other supports policies that would lead to school funding cuts. (Photo by iStock)

Wagner and Wolf both say the other supports policies that would lead to school funding cuts. (Photo by iStock)

Governor Tom Wolf and GOP challenger Scott Wagner have spent much of this month trying to paint one another as supporters of school funding cuts.

And both say the other camp is being misleading.

The exchanges started after Wolf appeared to call for all school money to be routed through the state’s fair funding formula, which has only applied to new funding increases since 2016.

A sudden shift would have probably led to cuts in small districts.

And Wagner’s campaign seized the situation as an opportunity, most recently citing a school funding advocate as saying Wolf staffers voiced support for a full funding formula shift, and claiming that “try as he might, Tom Wolf cannot hide from the fact that he is in support of a disastrous proposal that would cut $1.2 billion from 362 school districts.”

But the administration quickly followed up. Campaign spokeswoman Beth Melena said the governor never wanted an immediate change.

“Governor Wolf would support doing that down the line and gradually, but for now we need to wait until we can secure more funding for education through the legislature in order to make sure that our schools don’t receive any cuts,” she said.

She added, “His stance has never changed on this. And plain and simple, Scott Wagner is lying about this.”

Meanwhile, Wolf is pointing to a 2015 op-ed in which then-York County Senator Wagner called for abolishment of the “hold harmless” clause that keeps schools’ funding from being reduced.

Wagner argued at the time, it pumped too much cash into certain districts. Asked for comment, a spokesman for the state GOP said the candidate dropped that position after the official fair funding formula was enacted in 2016, though he has reiterated his criticism of the clause since then.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that Wagner made negative comments about the “hold harmless” clause after passage of the state’s fair funding formula in 2016.

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