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Welcome to "Mike's Memo," an update on what's happening in the 48th Legislative District, the State Capitol, and the progress of my legislative priorities. If you haven't done so already, please take a few moments to visit my website at www.senatorfolmer.com to learn more about issues that may affect you and your family.

Week of September 5, 2016

Bruce Beemer Unanimously Confirmed as Attorney General
On August 30, the Senate unanimously confirmed Bruce Beemer as Pennsylvania’s new Attorney General. Mr. Beemer received bipartisan support, and the Senate is looking forward to the trustworthiness and stability he will bring to the position.

Pathways to Pardons: Empowering with Knowledge to Help Improve Lives
Lt. Governor Stack, as Chairman of the PA Board of Pardons, and I will be hosting a Pathways to Pardons program on Wednesday, September 14 at 6:30 p.m. at the Lebanon YMCA, 201 North 7th Street, Lebanon, PA 17046. The program is free, open to the public, and designed to inform constituents of the pardons process with time allotted for Q&A and discussion. RSVP is requested (but not required) to fbinner@pasen.gov or (717) 787-5708.

Column: Funding Education
In 2006, a “Costing-Out Study” called for a 50% increase in Pennsylvania’s basic education spending: at least $3.17 Billion more (to $6.02 Billion). Funding that year was boosted to $4.78 Billion (an 18.3% increase) with total education spending of $9.93 Billion.

Advocates continued to cite the Costing-Out Study to increase education spending – even though they couldn’t fully explain the study’s use of “hypothetical school districts” and why it didn’t focus on low cost/high performance schools.

Over the past 10 years, education funding has grown from $9.93 Billion to $11.78 Billion (nearly a 17% increase). Today, this translates to $32,277,643.84 spent a day, $1,344,901.83 an hour, $22,415.03 a minute, and $373.58 a second (not counting local and federal moneys).

A recent “Governing” magazine for states and localities compared education spending among states. The most recent data (2014) indicates $11,009 is spent on public education per student (elementary and secondary schools).

Pennsylvania ranked #12 for spending ($13,961 per student) – after: New York ($20,610 per student), Washington DC ($18,485), Alaska ($18,416), New Jersey ($17,907), Connecticut ($17,745), Vermont ($16,988), Wyoming ($15,797), Massachusetts ($15,087), Rhode Island ($14,767), New Hampshire ($14,335), and Maryland ($14,003).

Utah ($6,500 per student), Idaho ($6,621), Arizona ($7,528), Oklahoma ($7,829), and Mississippi ($8,263) were the five lowest spending states in support of public education.

“Governing” notes several factors in explaining variations in states’ education spending: revenues, salaries, employee benefits, cost of living, demographics, class sizes, administrative costs, and state and local policy.

According to “Governing”, school spending is more a function of moneys available, rather than actual costs to educate students: “Schools in areas more reliant on state funding than on local property taxes generally have fewer total dollars available to them, but there’s more equity across their districts. The largest spending spikes are found in districts serving regions with high-property values.”

“Governing” notes wage and salary expenses also vary, with New York spending the most ($8,712 per student), followed by Connecticut and New Jersey: “Districts employing more experienced teachers or more teachers with advanced degrees spend significantly more on salaries.”

Pensions, health insurance, tuition reimbursement, and other benefits represent another sizeable portion of education spending. Employee benefits account for about $1,700 in spending per pupil nationally and are as high as $4,127 per student in Alaska and $4,660 in New York.

States with higher costs of living also tend to spend more on education. However, Rhode Island and Wyoming are states near the top of education spending with cost of living indexes below the national average.

Demographics also play a role in education spending as states with more young residents have special challenges and more rural states tend to incur greater school transportation costs.

Class size also impacts school spending. Nevada has the largest average class size nationally: 31 students – nearly twice some other states. Maine, Tennessee, Vermont, and Wyoming reported fewer than 18 students per class.

While administrative costs account for a small portion of total education spending (about 7%), there is considerable variation: Washington DC and 13 states spend more than $1,000 per student while Utah and Arizona spend $463 and $450 per student respectively. Massachusetts and New York spend the least on administration while New Mexico spends the highest portion of education dollars on administrative costs.

States employ varying funding formulas, mandates, and other requirements that affect school spending. Pennsylvania is guided by Article III, Section 14 of its Constitution: “The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth.”

Disability Employment Outreach Day
The State Civil Service Commission, the Governor’s Cabinet for People with Disabilities, and the Office of Administration are holding a Disability Employment Outreach Day on Friday, October 21 at the PA Fish & Boat Commission Headquarters, 1601 Elmerton Avenue, Harrisburg. Employment presentations will be at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., and job counselors will be available from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. This is an informational event only where individuals with disabilities are invited to learn about the state’s civil service application, testing, and hiring process, and are asked to bring an up-to-date resume (no interviews or hiring will take place at the outreach event). To request accommodations for this event, contact pmarinak@pa.gov or (717) 214-4933 by October 7.


Contact Information
Please feel free to contact me at any time on state-related issues that are of concern to you. I may be reached through my website or my Lebanon or Harrisburg offices.

When contacting my office by e-mail, mail, or telephone, please be sure to share your e-mail, telephone number, and address so that we can follow up with you in a timely manner. Many inquiries can be handled with a phone call or email.

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