July 8, 2013 – The Pennsylvania education budget adopted June 30, 2013, fails to address underlying, systemic inequities in the state’s public school funding, locks in the massive 2011 education funding cuts, and boosts funding to a few select districts, according to an Education Law Center analysis.
“The General Assembly and the Governor have delivered education dollars in a way that cherry-picks a small group of school districts for additional funding, but ignores the remaining 479 school districts,” said Rhonda Brownstein, Education Law Center Executive Director.
The legislature identified 21 school districts for additional state funding. Some of these districts have high numbers of students learning English, some have high numbers of students in poverty, and some are fast-growing districts. But other school districts on the list received additional funding based on particularly narrow and unique characteristics rarely used in comprehensive education funding formulas, according to the Law Center.
“Poverty, number of students learning English, rapid growth — these are all important student and district factors that should be applied in a fair, accurate, and transparent education funding formula,” said Brownstein. “What’s unfortunate is that the General Assembly and the Governor have chosen to apply these factors to only a handful of districts. The impact for schools and students throughout the Commonwealth could have been greatly improved if our legislative leaders had simply used these factors to distribute education dollars to all 500 school districts,” she added.
For example, only five school districts received additional funding based on the “English Language Learner Supplement” in the current budget, yet 412 other school districts in the state have students learning English.
“It’s a good sign that our legislative leaders have recognized there are different costs associated with different types of students,” said Brownstein. “The students in these five districts should receive the necessary resources to meet state academic standards — but so should English language learners in all of our other school districts,” she added.
Of the 21 specially selected districts, eight have now had their 2011 funding cuts restored. There are 490 other school districts throughout the state that still have not. (Two school districts — Chester-Upland and Duquesne — received funding restorations last year as part of a state-takeover plan.)
A March 2013 Law Center report, “Funding, Formulas and Fairness,” examines public education funding formulas in each of the 50 states.
Pennsylvania remains one of only three states in the nation without a fair, accurate, and transparent education funding formula, according to the report.
The report shows most other states use funding formulas to calculate and distribute education dollars. The formulas share common components, such as an accurate per-student base cost, different funding variables that recognize student differences in all schools, and a funding goal that the state works towards in order to ensure adequate funding for all students.
Pennsylvania abandoned these basic principles in its 2011-12 budget and officially amended its education funding formula out of use in 2012.
“Pennsylvania school districts must now operate in fiscal limbo every year, wondering if they’ll be one of the chosen school districts receiving special allocations from Harrisburg,” said Brownstein. “It’s time for that to change. It’s time for Pennsylvania to become a national leader in the development and implementation of a sound, comprehensive education funding formula that addresses real classroom costs and meets real student needs in all of our schools.”
View the calculations for the various funding supplements:
The Education Law Center is a non-profit legal advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring that all of Pennsylvania’s children have access to a quality public education.
Education Law Center
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