Everett talks education

State spending for public education for pre-kindergarten through grade 12 students continues to increase each year.

And while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, the additional annual spending has not led to best results, according to a local lawmaker.

State Rep. Garth Everett, R-Muncy, noted that 38 percent of the state budget is comprised of public education spending, the highest of any category.

Only human services, which make up 37 percent of the state’s $33.9 billion budget, comes close to that.

“We spend more on pre-K to 12th grade every year,” he said,

Beyond state funding, the schools also receive federal and local dollars through property taxes for operating school districts.

Many people have called for replacing property taxes with perhaps a sales tax and/or income tax.

But Everett said that may not be a viable solution.

“Property taxes have to be part of the mix in education spending,” he said.

The levying of property taxes by local school districts at least provides for some degree of local control over education spending.

He said he hears the greatest outcry against real estate taxes from elderly property owners on fixed incomes.

They include low-income residents who can quality for property rebates of up to $650.

Everett said the big problem with the increased spending is its inability to bring great improvements to education across the state

He noted that Pennsylvania spends more per student than most other states.

According to recent figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau, the state spends $12,201 per pupil, the ninth highest in the nation.

Locally, he said most school districts seem to do a good job with their spending practices.

“Our districts are pretty fiscally conservative,” he said.

Cyber and charter schools, Everett noted, are part of the public school system and should continue to provide options for students.

But he said he’d like to see more transparency with their operations.

“In my mind there is still not enough oversight,” he said.

This year’s budget, Everett noted, also included increased spending for the state-affiliated colleges and universities including Pennsylvania College of Technology and Penn State University as well as agricultural research.

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