Leadership is the answer
Faced with an obsolete school financing system that relies too heavily on local property taxation, state lawmakers seem to have reached a bipartisan consensus to make it worse.
The state House recently voted overwhelmingly to reject the only property tax reform that makes any sense - a bill that would have eliminated the school property tax in favor of state funding derived from increased statewide sales and income taxes.
That bill would have more fairly spread the tax burden while more fairly distributing resources to ensure that all Pennsylvania schoolchildren have comparable access to good teachers, facilities and overall educational opportunities.
The fundamental problem with the property tax is that it ensures wide disparities in resources among districts due to wide disparities in the values of local tax bases, even though all school districts bear the same state constitutional mandate to provide an adequate public education.
Then, the House passed a bill that does nothing to improve the situation. It would allow districts to diminish local property taxes and replace the revenue with increases in other local taxes. Thus, lawmakers demonstrated their penchant for doing anything that doesn't increase their own accountability.
Now, Republican state Sen. Dominic Pileggi, the majority leader, has proposed a change that pretends the property tax problem pertains only to older property owners. It would freeze school property taxes at their current levels for any property owned by someone 65 or older.
The proposal does not include a funding mechanism to replace the estimated $200 million a year that would be lost to school districts. Mr. Pileggi has mentioned establishing state-run keno games as a possibility.
By such a choice, lawmakers once again would demonstrate their refusal to take responsibility for education funding at the state level. Keno, like other state-sanctioned gambling, would impose an effective tax primarily on lower-income Pennsylvanians who are a majority of the gambling population.
Gambling and pandering to older voters aren't the answers to Pennsylvania's school-funding problems. Leadership is the answer.