Funding Our Public Schools Fairly
I believe it is the responsibility of the Commonwealth to ensure that every student has access to a quality, basic public education regardless of where they reside.
Pennsylvania’s Constitution makes clear that the state – not local school boards and local taxpayers – has the ultimate responsibility to provide a thorough and efficient system of education for every student.
To make that happen, we needed to fundamentally change how public schools were funded.
In 2014, a bipartisan Basic Education Funding (BEF) Commission made up of members of the PA General Assembly was established. This commission held 15 hearings across the Commonwealth and produced the current BEF formula. The formula was adopted in June 2015.
This formula includes many significant variables not used before and takes into account important factors such as charter schools and a school district’s local tax base and taxing capacity. Since we know it costs more to educate students who live in poverty, the formula also accounts for both poverty level and poverty concentration, and enrollment levels.
The biggest deficiency of the BEF formula is that it only applies to newly budgeted monies. Therefore, under the current scenario, ensuring fair funding will take decades to achieve.
An adjustment to this formula must be made which would apply to basically all monies in the basic education budget, providing adequate and predictable funding for all school districts.
An analysis completed a few years ago indicated that of the 500 school districts in Pennsylvania, 320 are overfunded and 180 are underfunded. (This disparity is evident in my own 194th legislative district, which includes both the Philadelphia and Lower Merion School Districts. The disparity in spending per student between these two districts is exactly why a FAIR funding formula needs to be implemented.)
The General Assembly needs to improve the BEF formula that was adopted in 2015 and take the next brave step to apply that formula to all money in the basic education budget – not just new monies.
The Basic Education Funding Commission’s formula helped to move Pennsylvania toward finally providing predictable and equitable funding for school districts across the commonwealth, however it continues to require legislative attention to address this unfair and inadequate funding discrepancy.
The BEF formula is a stellar example of what is possible when Democrats and Republicans work together. Now we need to have the political courage to ensure that this fairness does not take decades to achieve and I am eager to be a part of this effort on behalf of all the students in my district, no matter what their zip code.
Speak Up and Stay Informed
Thoughts? Suggestions? Concerns? Make your voice heard by visiting my office at 6511 Ridge Avenue or calling (215) 482-8726. Walk-ins always welcome.