Resources: School Funding Formula

School Funding Formula

Fair School Funding

  • In a statement on the Pennsylvania budget, ELC welcomes the news from the General Assembly that state funding for basic education, special education, and pre-K in the coming school year will not be reduced from current levels, despite the dropoff in state revenues. Schools are already facing substantial decreases in revenue from local sources due to the economic downturn – as well as added costs associated with COVID-19 and the shift to remote learning. The state must promptly find ways to provide additional support to the struggling, underfunded school districts whose students have been hardest hit by this crisis. Read the full statement here.

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  • Research for Action and the Education Law Center have released a new report that presents simple solutions to making Pennsylvania’s special education funding more equitable and adequate.

    As the state legislature’s reconvened Special Education Funding Commission develops recommendations for how to fairly fund the education of students with disabilities, this analysis suggests that:

    • Pennsylvania align its Special Education Funding (SEF) formula with the formula adopted by the state in 2016 for distributing Basic Education Funding (BEF); and
    • The state should increase the amount of dollars distributed through the updated formula.

    Both the SEF formula (adopted in 2014) and BEF formula (adopted in 2016) apportion state aid similarly, based on both student and district characteristics. But the commission charged with developing the BEF formula determined that newer metrics would more accurately measure each school district’s wealth and tax effort. These newer metrics in the BEF tend to allocate greater resources to districts with higher proportions of historically disadvantaged student groups, including students receiving free or reduced lunch and students of color. The RFA-ELC report recommends that the Special Education Funding Commission incorporate these metrics in any proposed update to the SEF formula. Read the report here.

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  • ELC policy director Reynelle Brown Staley testified to the Pennsylvania legislature’s Special Education Funding Commission on Oct. 8, as the commission wrapped up a series of hearings to review the state’s funding formula for special education.

    Staley noted that it bears emphasizing that decisions about how to distribute funds cannot truly be divorced from the issue of how much funding is available. “When resources are scarce, decisions about how those resources are distributed can either sustain or debilitate a community,” she said.

    ELC’s recommendations for making the funding formula more equitable included introducing some of the measures of district need that are used in the formula for basic education; adding weights to account for the unrecognized costs of special education services for particular marginalized populations such as English learners; and dedicating a bigger chunk of any funding increases to support the poorest, most inadequately funded school districts.

     

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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • An ELC Fact Sheet published in November 2011 detailing the history of public school funding approaches in 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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  • 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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  • Pennsylvania Department of Education data on the 2011-12 state education budget.

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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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  • 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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  • 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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School Funding Formula

Equal Access

  • In a statement on the Pennsylvania budget, ELC welcomes the news from the General Assembly that state funding for basic education, special education, and pre-K in the coming school year will not be reduced from current levels, despite the dropoff in state revenues. Schools are already facing substantial decreases in revenue from local sources due to the economic downturn – as well as added costs associated with COVID-19 and the shift to remote learning. The state must promptly find ways to provide additional support to the struggling, underfunded school districts whose students have been hardest hit by this crisis. Read the full statement here.

    Download PDF

School Funding Formula

School to Prison Pipeline