Katie McGinty, one of the Democratic candidates for governor, proposes to add $1 billion to the state's public schools by imposing a 4.5 percent severance tax on natural gas drilling and by altering the funding formula for charter schools.
Ms. McGinty, a former state secretary of environmental protection, said that the revenue from the "modest'' severance tax she proposes would be dedicated to education and provide roughly $600 million annually in new school spending. Much of the other balance of the new revenue for school districts, however, would come from cuts in other current education spending. She pointed to former Auditor General Jack Wagner's criticisms of the funding formula for charter and cyber-charter schools as she said that if reimbursements to those institution were tied to actual costs, the state could save as much as $360 million annually.
Ms. McGinty also called for a overall change in the distribution formula for aid to school districts, charging that the current system is unfair.
Tom Wolf, another Democratic contender, also criticized the Corbett administration's education funding polices Tuesday. He too faulted the formula for distributing state dollars to school districts and pledged to work with lawmakers to craft a more equitable plan.
"Too many of our districts are hurting and we need to fix the school funding formula so we are equitably and adequately funding education now,'' Mr. Wolf said in a statement distributed by his campaign.
Ms. McGinty said she would work with school districts to expand pre-kindergarten education, guarantee full day kindergarten in all districts, and work town a maximum class size of 25 students over her first term.
"We're trying to recover from the cuts and damage Tom Corbett has done,'' Ms McGinty said. "But secondly, we want to restore our sense of promise and what's possible in Pennsylvania.''
In the longer term, Ms. McGinty said she would work to bring state funding for schools up to 50 percent of district costs, a longstanding, but elusive goal for state policymakers. Other members of the large Democratic field of would-be challengers to Mr. Corbett are looking to the natural gas fields for new revenue. U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz has called for a 5 percent severance levy that would help fund education and transportation. John Hanger, another former DEP secretary is a longtime advocate of a severance tax.