Resources: Fighting for Fair School Funding

Fighting for Fair School Funding

Current Law & Policy

  • Most of the law on school funding in Pennsylvania is found in the annual state budget, which is adopted by the General Assembly around June 30th of each year for the next fiscal year (which begins July 1).

     

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Fighting for Fair School Funding

Analysis & Research

  • March, 2017

    The Pennsylvania Constitution guarantees that children across the state have access to a “thorough and efficient” system of public education, one that enables them to meet comprehensive state academic standards and graduation requirements. Despite this constitutional mandate, hundreds of thousands of children—particularly children of color and children in poorer communities—are denied the school resources they need to be successful in school and beyond. This Education Law Center report details the race and class inequities in Pennsylvania’s school funding system, building on ELC’s 2013 report “Funding, Formulas, and Fairness.”

    Download the full report, “Money Matters in Education Justice.”

    Download the Executive Summary.

    Read our press release.

     

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  • December 11, 2015: Pennsylvania’s public school funding crisis cannot be resolved by legislating new costs that will eventually exceed new revenues. Unfortunately, the School Code bill recently passed by the Pennsylvania Senate and under consideration in the House of Representatives would do just that. Revenues provided under a bipartisan budget deal would be swallowed up by the new costs associated with rapid charter school expansion. Statewide, charter schools would be permitted to open new buildings, add new grades, and expand their enrollment with almost no limitations. In Philadelphia, where the district is already under state control and over a third of students already attend charter schools, the legislation would place numerous schools under a different state operator, this time the Pennsylvania Department of Education, and convert many of them into charter schools – all still without ensuring those schools have adequate funding.

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  • ELC Staff Attorney David Lapp’s recommendations on charter school legislation being considered by Pennsylvania State Legislature in June, 2015. Discussion includes a comparison of HB 530, PN 569 and SB 856, PN 968.

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  • Education Law Center Staff Attorney David Lapp’s testimony to the Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding Commission on November 18, 2014, entitled “Time for a Rational Fix to the Special Education Tuition in Pennsylvania Charter Schools.”

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  • ELC Research and Policy Fellow Ian Gavigan’s testimony presented to Philadelphia City Council on the importance of predictable school funding to serve the most at-risk children in the Philadelphia School District on 5/27/2015.

     

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  • Education Law Center Staff Attorney David Lapp’s May 13, 2015 letter to the Senate Education Committee considers the benefits and drawbacks of legislation that would create a new state-operated, state-wide “Achievement School District” in Pennsylvania.

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  • Education Law Center Attorney David Lapp’s Feb. 18, 2015 testimony to the School Reform Commission of Philadelphia examines the legal precedents for considering the fiscal stability of a school district when reviewing charter school applications.

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  • On Feb. 2, 2015, the Education Law Center submitted comments on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Every Child Ready for College or Career Act of 2015 Discussion Draft.

    The reauthorization of the ESEA offers an opportunity to update our nation’s primary federal education law to build upon the lessons learned since the last reauthorization. The Education Law Center urges Congress to reauthorize the ESEA in 2015 and address a number of priorities, including: Maintain a strong federal role in promoting equity and accountability; encourage states to fund schools equitably; protect Title I dollars for the poorest schools and districts; and act to end school pushout and the school-to-prison pipeline.

    Read ELC’s full comments.

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  • Education Law Center Attorney David Lapp’s December 11, 2014 testimony to the School District of Philadelphia examines the legislative intent of Pennsylvania’s charter school law and how the District should view the latest round of charter school applications.

    “There is tremendous promise in the theory of independently-operated public schools that are accountable for equitably serving all kinds of students, achieve superior results, and ultimately increase quality educational options in the larger system of public education. Unfortunately, we do not have such a system in Philadelphia.

    Until we do, the district is fully within its legal right to restrict charter school growth. Indeed, in order to comply with the legislative intent of the charter school law and with our state constitutional mandate for a “thorough and efficient system of public education,” the district is legally compelled to restrict charter growth.”

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  • House Bill 2138 and Senate Bill 1316 are companion bills that represent an important first step toward fixing the state’s broken system for special education funding and accountability.

    Bills HB 2138 and SB 1316 present a formula for distributing new special education dollars based on the work of the General Assembly’s Special Education Funding Commission. The two bills use the cost data from the Commission to create three cost categories for students with disabilities and use accurate enrollment data to determine the number of students in each of those categories — finally aligning resources with the actual cost of serving children with disabilities.

     

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  • Education Law Center Attorney David Lapp’s March 7, 2014 testimony at the Pennsylvania Auditor General’s hearing highlights significant demographic disparities when comparing brick-and-mortar charter schools as a whole in Philadelphia to the School District of Philadelphia schools.

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  • The Special Education Funding Commission held public hearings throughout the state in 2013, receiving testimony from dozens of witnesses. Students, parents, educators, and national experts uniformly emphasized the long-term impact of the state funding system on the ability of schools to meet the needs of children with disabilities.

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  • The Senate Appropriations Committee passed SB 1085 by a 15-11 vote on November 19, 2013. Many major amendments were approved, but none addressed the underlying issues of improving charter school accountability and increasing access for all students that we raised in our initial analysis of SB 1085.

    There are several changes to the bill that raise new concerns for ELC.

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  • The Education Law Center testified on Nov. 15, 2013 asking the Pennsylvania Department of Education to utilize its clear legal authority and deny all six cyber charter applications currently under review.

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  • Charter school reform is needed in the Commonwealth and significant legislative effort has gone into two similar bills: HB 618 and SB 1085. The most recent bill to receive attention in the General Assembly is SB 1085.

    The Education Law Center supports some of the accountability provisions of SB 1085. However, through the lens of ELC’s charter reform principles and through the lens of the state constitutional mandate to maintain and support a thorough and efficient system of public education, ELC strongly opposes many other provisions of the bill.

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  • The graphs in this analysis were created by the Education Law Center using publicly reported data on public school enrollment demographics. We focused on Pennsylvania’s most heavily-chartered communities — Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Chester-Upland, York City, and Erie City — and on students receiving special education services.

    The data demonstrates that, while a number of individual charter schools equitably serve all students, the charter school sector taken as a whole generally underserves these vulnerable student populations. The result is that, with some notable exceptions, these students are often more heavily concentrated in the authorizing school district of residence.

     

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  • Faced with a budget shortfall of more than $700 million, the School District of Philadelphia laid off 47 nurses effective December 31, 2011. Subsequent layoffs and the retirement of 25 additional nurses resulted in a net loss of more than 100 school nurses in the 2011-2012 school year.

    This 2013 report examines the impact of those losses on student health, safety, and learning.

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  • Pennsylvania is a national outlier when it comes to following basic budgeting principles — accuracy, fairness, and transparency — that most states use when it comes to public school funding, according to a 2013 report from the Education Law Center.

    The statewide, non-profit organization examined how each of the 50 states calculates and distributes education dollars. The report shows that Pennsylvania is in the minority when it comes to basic budgeting practices used by most states.

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  • ELC’s November 2012 testimony to the Pennsylvania Department of Education on eight cyber charter school applications.

    An excerpt: “The academic performance of the existing cyber charter schools raises serious questions about the ability of such programs to enable students to meet Pennsylvania’s academic standards and this performance should give the Department great pause before authorizing any additional cyber charters.”

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  • The Law Center believes that important reforms are needed for Pennsylvania’s system of charter schools. However, it is important to note that the legislative process for charter school reform has headed down the wrong path.

    (The following analysis highlights proposed changes to the law. These changes were not adopted in 2012 or 2013, but many of them are contained in current charter law proposals before the legislature.)

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  • According to the research findings, students who have access to a quality school library program have an academic advantage over students who did not have such access. This 2012 report, produced by the Education Law Center and the Pennsylvania Association of School Librarians, shows these academic differences are not explained away by the socio-economic, racial/ethnic, or disability status of the students. In fact, the research shows that all students with access to a full-time, certified librarians have higher PSSA Reading and Writing scores than students without that access.

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  • Charter schools are public schools and must follow laws that protect the rights of public school students. Ensuring that charter schools, as well as traditional public schools, provide quality education to all students is an important part of ELC’s mission.

    The following principles, published in 2012, are an outgrowth of ELC’s work with and on behalf of thousands of families throughout Pennsylvania.

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  • Governor Corbett proposed state funding for public schools in 2012-13 that includes cuts for most school districts.  These cuts reflect the loss of $100 million in state funding for Accountability Block Grants, which support kindergarten programs and tutoring for struggling students, as well as 5 percent reductions in Pre-K Counts and Head Start.

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  • The 2007 report, commissioned by the General Assembly, provides data on the costs for all students in Pennsylvania public schools – no matter where they live – to receive a quality education, allowing them to meet state standards for academic achievement.

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  • Strong public schools are important for creating a successful future for both individuals and whole communities. Formula proposals or state budgets affecting education funding should be evaluated based on the following ten criteria. Any proposal or budget that fails to meet these criteria will not serve the interests of all students, especially disadvantaged students, and should not be adopted.

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  • There are many voices and various ideas, but crucial leadership and commitment are sorely lacking on the key issues facing the future of the 3,300 public schools that serve 1.8 million children in the Commonwealth. And the ideas for reform getting the most attention often ignore the basic changes needed to truly improve teaching and learning at the classroom level, especially for struggling students and schools.

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  • The items included in the 2011-12 school code bill do not address the needs of disadvantaged students and their families. For example, some of the items relate to teacher quality but do not ensure either a more equitable distribution of excellent teachers or parent involvement in this issue.

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  • ELC presents key facts analysis about Pennsylvania’s final Education Budget for the 2011-12 school year. This budget adopted by the General Assembly on June 30, 2011 cut state funding for PreK-12 education by $961 million.

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  • Pennsylvania Department of Education data on the 2011-12 state education budget.

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  • Using Pennsylvania Department of Education data, ELC examined the distribution of the 2011-12 state education budget cuts for Southeastern Pennsylvania school districts.

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  • Investing in public eduation initiatives, from quality pre-kindergarten programs to lowering class size in elementary schools, pays big dividends for the state’s economic and social welfare, according to a report from Penn State University Professor Dana Mitra.

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  • The 2009 report, Costing Out the Resources Needed to Meet Pennsylvania’s Education Goals for Students with Disabilities, identifies and evaluates Special Education solutions based on Pennsylvania’s 2007 Education Cost Study and examines why it is critically important for the state to implement a funding system for students with disabilities.

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  • Starting in January 2007, the Education Law Center and Critical Exposure worked with high school students throughout Pennsylvania to photograph and document what they thought was important for the public to know about their education.

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Fighting for Fair School Funding

Fact Sheets

  • An ELC Fact Sheet published in November 2011 detailing the history of public school funding approaches in Pennsylvania.

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  • A 2013 Fact Sheet on Act 141, the School District Financial Recovery Law, that is intended to assist financially distressed school districts get back on a path toward financial stability. The law, passed July 12, 2012, allows the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Secretary of Education to declare up to nine school districts at a time in Financial Recovery Status. This would then allow the Secretary to appoint either a Chief Recovery Officer or a receiver to develop, implement, and administer a financial recovery plan.

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  • Pennsylvania’s education cost study was commissioned and funded by the General Assembly in June 2006. It was supervised and released by the State Board of Education and performed by a national consulting firm – Augenblick, Palaich and Associates of Denver, Colorado.

    The study was designed to understand what it costs for all students in Pennsylvania public schools – no matter where they live – to receive a quality education allowing them to meet state standards for academic achievement.

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Fighting for Fair School Funding

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Fighting for Fair School Funding

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