The Pennsylvania Special Education Funding Commission has traveled across the state throughout the fall to hear educators and school administrators’ concerns regarding special education funding. The state panel is reevaluating a formula for allocating special education funding to districts that currently distributes more than $1 billion each year. Now, the panel has less than a month to present to Pennsylvania lawmakers whether or not this funding formula should be changed in order to distribute funding to the state’s 500 school districts.
New Recommendation for the Funding Formula
With the deadline approaching, a team of researchers and education reform advocates has generated ideas regarding what these changes should look like. A report published by the Education Law Center suggests that state lawmakers should get rid of the existing special education funding formula. Their argument is based on the fact that the current formula contains flaws that allow an “artificial boost” to wealthy districts at the expense of poorer districts.
Instead, the report believes state lawmakers should adopt a new funding formula that is based on a previous one that was adopted in 2016, Pennsylvania’s basic funding formula. This formula, the result of a commission formed by the state’s former governor, distributed K-12 education dollars statewide. The equation that was used took a number of different factors regarding the district into account in order to determine how much each district received from the state’s annual basic education appropriation. This included the wealth of its taxpayers, the number of children living in poverty, and the number of children learning English as a second language. The report suggests using these updated metrics for special education funding as well.
While the formula is complicated, the authors of the report believe it does a good job of distributing money equitably amongst districts. They believe the change could allow the Commission to achieve greater equity in special education funding throughout Pennsylvania. In addition to this proposal, they want the General Assembly to put more money into special education.
What Comes Next?
While the authors behind the report are encouraging lawmakers to adopt this proposal, it is ultimately the job of the funding commission to make the final recommendation. It is important to know what the commission can only tell the state how they should distribute these funds, not how much they can budget. The panel is set to return a report to the General Assembly at the end of the month on November 30 with its recommendations.
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