|Posted:||May 20, 2021 02:06 PM|
|From:||Representative Joe Ciresi|
|To:||All House members|
|Subject:||Achieving Fair Funding for All Education Dollars|
|Until 2016, Pennsylvania was one of only three states in the country to not use a funding formula for education. There was a widespread consensus that the previous way of funding education was not fair, and the legislature came together to create a solution – a fair funding formula. Five years later, the way our state funds education remains broken, because we still barely use the fair funding formulas that we created, sending just 11 percent of basic education and 13.6 percent of special education dollars through the formulas.
In 2016, the General Assembly established the student-weighted Basic Education Funding (BEF) formula to direct money to school districts based on certain factors that include student enrollment, student population needs, wealth of the school district, and more. Similarly, the Special Education Funding (SEF) formula, established in 2014-15, directs state dollars to districts that have the greatest need for additional resources based on the cost of each special education student. Each formula allows districts to have more transparency and predictability on funding.
However, the overwhelming majority of state BEF and SEF moneys go to “hold harmless,” which allows for a school district to receive no less than the same amount of state basic education dollars that it received previously, rather than being distributed fully under the newer and fairer formulas. As such, school districts, especially those with growing enrollments, are forced to rely more heavily on property taxes to fund operations, consequently widening the gap between poor and rich school districts.
According to the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, funding for education can have a positive impact on student achievement. For this reason, my legislation would eliminate hold harmless and fully implement both the BEF formula and the SEF Formula, phased in over five years. We can’t say we’ve “fixed” education funding just by having a fair funding formula, unless we actually use it. It’s time that we commit ourselves to using real data based on actual need to fund education, the reason we created these formulas in the first place. My legislation puts Pennsylvania on track to fairly distributing education dollars – both BEF and SEF – so that we can achieve equitable funding for every student.
Please join me in co-sponsoring legislation that ensures a comprehensive path to achieving fair funding for both of these major sources of state education funding.
Introduced as HB1595