Budget shows state public education priority being met

Schoolbells will be ringing again in just a few weeks.

With the state budget of $33.9 billion now peacefully passed, the money to pay for those public schools, their operations, their administrators, their teachers and other staff is set.

And it’s a lot, more than most states.

A total of 38 percent of the state budget is set aside for public education, the largest part of the budget pie. Only the 37 percent allocated for human services comes close.

And this is as it should be. Public education is supposed to be the primary benefactor of the state budget.

Our hope would be that this school year we will not hear the inaccurate snipe that the state is not doing its fair share to help school districts fund the education they are responsible to provide.

In fact, the state spends $12,201 per pupil, the ninth highest per-student allocation in the nation.

That, too, is as it should be. We don’t mind that the state is among the per-student funding leaders in the nation.

But with that priority comes responsibility. We would like to see greater transparency regarding cyber and charter schools. They are a greater part of the education funding equation each year and that increasing priority is not being matched by a corresponding increase in oversight.

School districts have a tough job these days, with responsibilities to provide education seemingly widening by the day. It costs big money to do the job and there is a need for vigilance with every dollar in state funding and local property taxes that the districts receive.

On balance, school districts in our region are “pretty fiscally conservative,” according to state Rep. Garth Everett, a Muncy Republican who represents much of our region.

That’s good, because the state’s budget can’t keep increasing at the rate it has been increasing over the past two decades and the allocation to public education matches the priority public education has been given.