In 2013, education leaders in Pennsylvania reviewed funding for special education throughout the state for the first time. During this evaluation, it was recommended that the state adopt a new funding formula based on how severe a student’s special education needs are. Now, six years later, Pennsylvania’s 15-member Special Education Funding Commission will travel across the state to examine the funding once again.
Special Education Funding Commission
At the end of August, the Commission came together for its first session. During this time, they selected representatives to serve as co-chairs. This includes Sen. Pat Browne, state Rep. Curt Sonney, and Education Secretary Pedro Rivera. The new panel is the result of House Bill 1615 that was sponsored by House Speaker Mike Turzai and signed by Governor Tom Wolf.
The job of the legislative panel will be to travel across Pennsylvania throughout the fall season to listen to concerns regarding the way the state pays for special education. The panel will listen to parents, educators, and school administrators. However, this examination will provide more of a narrow scope than it did in the past, as there is one limitation. This being the new state law that prohibits the Commission from reviewing special education funding payments to charter schools or cyber schools.
Senator Browne spoke on their plan for the panel in saying, “We expect to take a comprehensive look at the current formula used to distribute state funding to school districts for special education and determine if the formula and the factors used are meeting their intended goals.”
Representative Sonney also shared his thoughts on receiving testimonies on the subject. He said, “As lawmakers, we have a responsibility to ensure we are fairly funding educational options for all of our students so that we are meeting their specific needs and preparing them to be future parents, workers, and community leaders … it is vital that we continue to review what’s working and what isn’t working, to ensure we fulfill our obligations to all students.”
This assessment will allow members of the state House, state Senate, and Wolf administration to see what changes need to be made for the special education community. They will compile their findings in a report that is due by November 30. This may include recommendations to the General Assembly on how to change the formula that distributes money for special education in Pennsylvania public schools.
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