|Posted:||April 7, 2021 12:00 PM|
|From:||Representative Kyle J. Mullins and Rep. Marty Flynn|
|To:||All House members|
|Subject:||Fair Funding for Underfunded School Districts (Former HB1790)|
|In 2015, the bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission outlined three options (translation: speeds) in which lawmakers could begin to rectify the ingrained inequities in Pennsylvania’s school funding. Paraphrasing, we will call the options “snail speed,” “turtle speed,” and “facing hard truths about the inequities and systemic racism in our education funding structure speed.”
The General Assembly ultimately opted for snail speed, which guarantees each school district the amount it received in 2014/15 and distributes new funding added since 2015/16 through the recommended fair funding formula. In other words, snail speed addresses the fairness issue for new funding, but does nothing to rectify past injustices. After six years of snail speed, 11.2 percent of PA’s basic education funding is distributed fairly (the $699 million added since 2015/16) and 88.8 percent is distributed unfairly (based upon outdated data).
What do those inequities look like? For Scranton School District, which we jointly represent, snail speed means each year it is and forever will be shortchanged $33 million (42 percent) or $3,231 per student. This represents the difference between the actual amount Scranton School District received in 2014/15 ($37 million) and its fair share of 2014/15 funds calculated by the bipartisan fair funding formula ($70 million). Immorally, the school districts in Pennsylvania with the highest shares of Black and Hispanic students receive about $1,900 less than their fair share, while the school districts with the highest populations of White students receive about $1,900 more than their fair share.
With this legislation, we are asking the General Assembly to increase the speed with which we resolve these inequities by prioritizing a certain share of new funding for school districts that are currently not receiving their fair share. After all, if you put equal weights on both sides of already imbalanced scales, the scales will never become level.
Our proposal would use the fair funding formula to determine what is fair, and then allocates extra funding to those school districts that are not receiving their fair share to help them catch up. To that end, our legislation calls for 75 percent of new funding after 2020/21 to go only to those receiving less than their fair share (with a slight buffer) and 25 percent to be distributed to all school districts.
The benefit of this approach is that no school district loses funding compared to its 2020/21 level. Ultimately, we hope that the General Assembly will invest billions more in public education to allow this approach to meaningfully address our inequitable funding system.
By our count, if each member of the House voted in the financial interest of the district constituting the largest portion of their legislative district, then there would be 110 yes votes for our bill (surpassing the 102 needed), with 43 Republican members and 67 Democratic members pressing the green button. We hope others will recognize that this is the morally right thing to do and that you will join us in sponsoring this effort to bring equitable and adequate funding to all of the state’s school districts.