While education funding worries in Philadelphia and across the state have gotten more headlines, Pennsylvania's overall economic performance may have more impact on the coming election.
Most Pennsylvanians understand that the long-term future of the state hinges on its ability to produce a well-educated workforce and attract and retain companies that require growing numbers of highly skilled employees.
But even as parents protest education funding policies that shortchange their children, leaving them poorly prepared for tomorrow's jobs, they can't help but also worry about today's stagnant wages and wish they had better employment alternatives.
Job creation in Pennsylvania remains weak despite the recession's end. While the state has gone from producing 1,900 new jobs a month in 2012 to gaining more than 5,000 a month through July of this year, it was adding 6,600 jobs a month back in 2010.
In fact, numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics rank Pennsylvania 50th in the nation in job creation since January 2011. That's a dramatic fall from December 2009 to December 2010, when the state ranked 10th in job creation.
The Keystone Research Center found that job creation has not made up for job losses. Consequently, despite a lower unemployment rate of 5.7 percent compared with the January 2011 rate of 8.1 percent, Pennsylvania has about 20,000 fewer jobs than in December 2007.
As if that weren't bad enough, the state's economy has also been hurt by the lower wages being paid to workers whose skills qualify them for better-paying jobs. The center says one out of eight employees in the state is underemployed, including many part-time workers who want full-time jobs.
The state's underemployment rate of 12.5 percent has improved since 2010, when it was 14.7 percent. But 37 states have seen larger drops in their underemployment rates, which should have Pennsylvanians asking what more should be done here.
There's more to consider when asking that question. The center also reports an overall decline in hourly wages, which has Pennsylvania's full-time workers taking home about $750 to $1,150 less per year than in 2010. That's money that won't be spent on goods and services to boost the economy.
Criticism of the nation's slow recovery from the recession certainly applies to Pennsylvania. Restoring employment to prerecession levels is crucial, but not just in the private sector. Many local economies would greatly improve if they could bring back some government workers, including 27,000 laid-off school employees.
It's not that Pennsylvania hasn't made significant progress in escaping the recession's lingering effects. But who would argue that there's no need to pick up the pace?