Pennsylvania is no longer one of only three states without a fair funding formula. With HB 1552 signed into law in early June after passing with a vote of 188-3, we now have a formula that directs money to districts based upon objective factors. These include enrollment and student needs, as well as the wealth of school districts and their capacity to raise local revenues.
While a long-awaited and welcome development, this formula focuses on how to distribute funds, not the actual amounts available for distribution to school districts around the state. The inadequate levels of state funding over the past years have led to a heavy reliance on local property taxes and accounted for the largest disparity of any state in the country between wealthy and poor districts, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). In a classroom of 25 students, for example, this difference amounts to $78,550.
NCES also ranks Pennsylvania as number 46 in funding for public education, or a mere 36.1 percent of total outlay. In 1974, the state was funding public education to the tune of 54 percent.
The Public Interest Law Center is calling for a gradual increase in state funding of between $3.2 and $4.3 billion. The governor’s proposal of a $400 million increase to public education in 2016-17 is a good beginning. We urge you to contact your legislators over the coming weeks and ensure we keep the positive momentum going.