Harrisburg, June 18, 2015 − Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny), Sens. Andy Dinniman (D-Chester) and Rob Teplitz (D-Dauphin/Perry) who serve as members of the Basic Education Funding Commission (BEFC) today hailed the new proposed statewide education funding formula as a responsible, predicable and equitable approach that would improve education for all students.
The formula, which the commission is recommending to be used to distribute basic education funding from the state to local school districts, was unveiled and unanimously adopted at a commission meeting this morning in Harrisburg. The proposal still has to be approved by the General Assembly.
The senators said the plan would address the wide inequity in education resources that hold back students from the poorest districts.
The formula contains five factors that reflect the actual costs of educating children in various economic circumstances: poverty, poverty concentration, English language learners, charter school enrollment, and district size. Local tax effort and tax capacity are also included, as is a determination of relative wealth of a district based on median income.
Pennsylvania is only one of three states that have no funding formula for public schools and has the distinction of having the most inequitable spending for poor students in the country.
The commission did exemplary work in crafting a new funding formula that is meaningful and substantive, Costa said. The commission was able to cut through politics, regional bias and complex issues to produce a funding structure that, if fully funded, will help students, parents, teachers, administrators and taxpayers.
Dinniman said he is pleased with the new funding formula but its success is totally dependent on the General Assembly providing sufficient dollars to ensure that all students have an equal opportunity to be educated to the top of the curriculum.
The goal is to improve performance statewide and eliminate funding disparities that plague student development by removing funding impediments so state funding is equitably distributed, said Dinniman, who serves as the Senate Democratic Education Chair, said. For too long, Pennsylvania school children and taxpayers have had to overcome funding challenges which were created in Harrisburg.
The new funding formula will rectify the imbalance and equitably spread funding.
Teplitz, who is a member of the Senate Education and Appropriations committees, praised the commissions process of developing a fair formula that was crafted in a bipartisan, open, and inclusive way. Its equally important to ensure that basic education is also properly funded, he said.
The formula that was developed by the commission on a bipartisan basis addresses funding equity, but we also must ensure that our schools are also adequately funded. If we want all kids to have access to a quality public education, we must not only divide up the pie more fairly, but also increase the size of the pie itself, said Teplitz. Being a member of this commission was a tremendous experience and I look forward to continuing to fight for our children.
Recognizing the need to develop a predictable, fair, and equitable education funding formula, the General Assembly passed Act 51 in 2014 that created the commission. BEFC has 15 members, including 12 legislative appointees and 3 cabinet officials. Costa, Teplitz and Dinniman are the current Democratic appointees. Sen. Matt Smith (D-Allegheny) served as a member of the committee until his announced departure from the Senate.
The senators said the formula represents a fair and equitable way to disburse education dollars for funding public education. The poorest 25 percent of districts will be getting an average of four times more from the formula than the richest 25 percent of districts.
Costa said because the formula was developed on a bipartisan basis with input from the administration, he was hopeful that the formula would be supported by increased education funding in the upcoming state budget.
Contact: Stacey Witalec
Telephone: 717 877-2997