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House of Representatives
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: September 21, 2015 10:45 AM
From: Representative David Parker
To: All House members
On June 18, 2015, the Basic Education Funding Commission recommended that the General Assembly adopt a new formula for distributing state funding for basic education to Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts.

The 15-member bi-partisan group, created through Act 51 of 2014 (sponsored as House Bill 1738 by Representative Bernie O’Neill), held 15 hearings over 11 months and heard from more than 110 individuals including superintendents, school board presidents, business leaders, nonprofit organizations, parents, and Governor's Wolf's administration before making their recommendations.

The Commission determined that allocation of basic education funding needs to allow for accountability, transparency and predictability. The main objective of the new funding formula is to fairly distribute state resources according to various student and school district factors. The new formula takes into account relative wealth, local tax effort, geographic price differences, enrollment levels, local support as well as other factors.

While the Basic Education Funding Commission came to a unanimous conclusion on the formula needed to provide a fair distribution of state education dollars, the recommendations of the Commission will not go into effect without legislation approved by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor.

School Consolidation: The Commission also recommended the General Assembly should consider capitalizing a fund within the Department of Education to incent and support voluntary consolidations. The Commission recognizes that consolidation in some cases will provide a platform to achieve administrative savings and or afford students greater learning opportunities. The Commission also recognizes that the cost of studying the impact of consolidation and differences in school districts’ tax and debt situations can serve as an impediment to consolidation that may be reconcilable with some level of additional financial support.

Next week, I plan to introduce legislation that will promulgate and fund the implementation process to adopt the recommended new formula for distributing state funding for basic education to Pennsylvania's 500 school districts.

The proposed legislation holds all 500 school districts at their FY 2014-2015 funding level. The Commission's recommendations found 180 school districts are presently not receiving the funding recommended by the new formula. Accordingly, this legislation specifically allocates funding to the 180 underfunded districts through the new formula to inch them closer to the funding level determined by the Commission recommendation.

To implement the recommendations, the legislation establishes two new funds and directs:

• $360 million to the Basic Education Funding Equity Fund
• $100 million to the School District Consolidation Incentive Fund

The Basic Education Funding Equity Fund would collect, allocate and equitably distribute received funds to bring all 500 school districts to their recommended funding levels established by the new formula. Hence, the 180 underfunded school districts will receive allocations to raise their funding levels to the levels established by the Basic Education Funding Commission.

The School District Consolidation Incentive Fund would collect, allocate and equitably distribute received funds to incent school districts to merge and consolidate in order to right-size student populations and capture significant economies of scale and cost savings as recommended by the Commission. To efficiently maximize the effective allocation of funds, the Fund will prioritize allocations to school district consolidation plans with the best short and long-term savings and synergies.

Concurrently, I will also be advocating the insertion of certain taxpayer protections into all education budget funding appropriations so our taxpayers do not face these inequities again. Among these taxpayer protection measures, I will be working to build working majorities for legislating and funding performance-based-goals, best-learning practices and cost-saving commissions for every school district.

*Due to the volume of this legislation, a copy is available upon request.

Introduced as HB1650