Pennsylvania schools sue state in bid to reform funding
The small and economically struggling town about two hours northwest of Philadelphia is one of six school districts, along with advocacy groups and the state’s NAACP, suing the state in an attempt to force it to rework how it funds school districts.
Advocates say that without a rejiggering of the formula, many school districts are bound to fail to meet the needs of their students.
The problem, they say, boils down to how the state funds schools. Pennsylvania is one of three states without a statewide funding formula for public education, according to the Education Law Center, a nonprofit group representing plaintiffs in the suit. While most states use property taxes in their funding formulas, Pennsylvania’s lack of a formula means that local taxes account for a larger share of school funding. Nationally, property taxes make up an average of 44 percent of school budgets, but in Pennsylvania the taxes make up 53 percent on average and much more in some districts.
Critics say that leaves poorer districts in urban areas like Philadelphia as well as schools in rural areas and in smaller school districts with smaller tax bases, scrambling to raise money from property taxes.