If the goal of a state educational system is to provide the best possible education combined with a reasonable cost to taxpayers, Pennsylvania has a lot of work to do.
A recent report by WalletHub ranks Pennsylvania 27th in a listing of the states by the best and worst school systems, coming in 26th for quality and is 35th for school safety.
But when WalletHub correlated school spending with the quality of the system, Pennsylvania found itself in a grouping of states it considered “high spending and weak school system.”
WalletHub ranked school safety based on a 100-point scale with 80 points allotted for quality and 20 points for safety.
Quality score metrics included the graduation rate for low-income students, the projected graduation rate, the number of dropouts, the pupil-teacher ratio and various test scores.
State lawmakers in the Republican-controlled Legislature passed a budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year that includes marked increases for education. The budget was signed by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf on July 28 and included a provision that raised the dropout age from 17 to 18 and lowered the age that children are required to begin school from 8 to 6.
The overall budget for pre-K-12 education increased by $265 million. The package includes $20 million for STEM and computer science education, $10 million for job training and apprenticeships and an additional $10 million to support career and technical education, according to information from Wolf’s office.
“When I came to office, I made my desire to better fund our public schools clear,” Wolf said in a statement. “Combined with changes in graduation requirements that focus on trade and technical skills along with historic investments in technical education, we will prepare more students for a wider range of careers.”
WalletHub determined the number of points allotted for safety based on several factors including the number of threats reported by students in grades 9-12, the number of students who did not go to school because of safety concerns, reports of high school students participating in violence, the presence of school resource officers and the number of school shootings since 2000.
Legislators are continuing to discuss school safety. Senators discussed the possibility of adding armed guards to schools during a hearing held by the Pennsylvania Senate Education Committee in May.
In 2018, Pennsylvania lawmakers passed Act 44 that created the school safety and security committee and requires schools to appoint school safety and security coordinators. The program was funded by a $60 million grant program and established standards for school resource officers, police officers and security guards.