Resources: School Funding

School Funding

Fair School Funding

  • This two-page flier announcing the upcoming trial in the Pennsylvania school funding lawsuit also provides a rundown of the history of the case, what the goals are, and how individuals and organizations can help advance those goals.

    This document is a PDF, formatted for printing as a 2-sided flier.

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  • Education Law Center executive director Deborah Gordon Klehr presented testimony on Pennsylvania school funding policy to the Pennsylvania House Democratic Policy Committee on September 1, 2021.

    Klehr’s testimony on behalf of ELC emphasized that “to serve all children, our system must achieve both adequacy and equity. Simply put we must both grow the pie and distribute the funds to the school districts and students with the greatest need.” She explained, “The legislature must be committed to the goals of both adequacy and equity through robust, predictable long-term funding to meet the needs of students based on concrete adequacy targets…. Without an adequate state contribution, there aren’t enough resources in low-wealth districts to achieve equity across the state.”

    The testimony highlights the shortchanging of Black and Latinx students, who are concentrated in low-wealth school districts and are deprived of educational opportunities as a result. It also addresses the need to reform funding policies for cyber charter schools, for special education in charter schools, and for special education overall.

    Read the testimony here.

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  • The Education Law Center of Pennsylvania, Public Interest Law Center, and the law firm O’Melveny have joined together to file a lawsuit on behalf of school districts, parents, and two statewide organizations against legislative leaders, state education officials, and the governor. We are asking for a court order that will force the legislature to comply with the state constitution and ensure that all students receive access to a high-quality public education. The case is scheduled to go to trial in Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court in October 2021. Here are answers to common questions about the case.

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  • For the past decade, expenditures for educating students with disabilities in Pennsylvania have been climbing steadily, mirroring a national trend. But those rising costs have been almost entirely borne by local school districts.

    By failing to keep pace with these expenditures, Pennsylvania has retreated from its responsibility to educate students with disabilities — despite the fact that the state remains legally responsible under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act for ensuring that students with disabilities receive a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment.

    Read our report, produced in partnership with the PA Schools Work coalition.

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  • Education Law Center’s Legal Director Maura McInerney issued the attached statement following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue on June 30, 2020.

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  • Many children across Pennsylvania are suffering the health effects of attending underfunded schools. Deteriorating school buildings and cuts to staff have led to unmet repairs, deferred maintenance, and in some cases dangerous conditions in many school buildings. For example, in 2017 the School District of Philadelphia estimated that it will cost nearly $5 billion to address deferred repairs. The cost to our children is even higher. A Philadelphia Inquirer series entitled “Toxic City – Sick Schools” highlighted health threats identified in Philadelphia’s public school facilities. These threats included environmental hazards such as asbestos, lead in paint, mold and other asthma triggers. This is a guide for parents on these issues to understand their rights.

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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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  • This October 2018 report from the Education Law Center highlights how the rise in special education costs in districts across the state is outpacing state special education funding, creating new challenges for underfunded school districts.

    Read the Report

    See the district-level special education funding data

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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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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School Funding

Equal Access

  • In 2021, Chester Upland School District faces the potential outsourcing of some or all of its schools, The court-appointed receiver for the district is now implementing a court-authorized request for proposals (RFP) process that could lead to charter conversion or private management of some or all district schools by this fall.

    The current crisis is rooted in a long history of racist policymaking and systemic underfunding. Read about that in this presentation.

    ELC, along with Public Interest Law Center, continues to advocate on behalf of Chester parents, students, and the disability rights group Delaware County Advocacy & Resource Organization. We aim to ensure that the quality of education provided to students is centered, parent input and transparency are prioritized, and the needs of students with disabilities are addressed.

    In response to our emergency motion to suspend the RFP process, the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas held a Jan. 11 hearing to consider our challenge that the RFP failed to ensure that charter operators demonstrate superior academic outcomes to the district’s and that all bidders establish their ability to improve educational outcomes and meet the needs of all students. On Jan. 14, Judge Barry Dozor ordered revisions to the RFP and suspended the RFP process until the district could submit its completed 2019 financial audits. The new deadline for RFP submissions is Feb. 25. A task force will then be convened to make recommendations to the receiver, and a public hearing held where parents and stakeholders can ask questions of the selected bidders prior to a court hearing on a final plan.

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  • At the October 2018 action meeting of the Philadelphia School Board, ELC offered testimony supporting a proposal that would increase transitional training and support services for students with disabilities.  Federal and state law require transition planning for every child beginning at age 14, including requiring school districts to provide every child with a disability with comprehensive services that will help them transition from school to post-school-life.  (more…)

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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.”

    Download PDF

  • 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.

    Download PDF

  • 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.

     

    Download PDF

  • 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.

    Download PDF

School Funding

School to Prison Pipeline

  • 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.

    Download PDF