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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sense and Sensibility

Yesterday, the House Education Committee unanimously passed Senate Bill 1115. The bill establishes a legislative commission to create a funding formula that would distribute special education funding to schools in a more equitable manner. This bill has been around for a few years now and has been a bipartisan effort.

During the meeting, Rep. O’Neil mentioned that this bill stems from the costing out study that was commissioned in 2007 to determine the “cost” to educate a student. The study concluded that Pennsylvania was under-funding K-12 education by more than $4 billion and that the system then in place relied too heavily on local property taxes.

The study also found that due to heavy reliance on local property taxes, districts with the lowest wealth were forced to levy higher tax rates than wealthier districts but still could not raise enough revenue to finance an adequate education for all their students. (Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign)

Rep. Tallman mentioned that funding special education using a formula made sense. Hmm….in 2008, the General Assembly passed a funding formula for basic education (it did not include special education funding) aimed at providing adequate funding. But since Governor Corbett took office, he and the General Assembly stopped using the funding formula and proceeded to reduced state funding for education by almost $1 billion, and they have made it even harder for local school districts to raise property taxes. If funding education by using a formula that is based on current data and the needs of children makes sense for special education, why wouldn’t it make sense for basic education? It’s not like they would have to create a new law…we already have one on the books…we just need to use it.

To learn more about what should belong in a funding formula, CLICK HERE.

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