A Call for an Education Funding Formula in PA

Sharon Ward of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center joined state policy and budget experts this week for a symposium on school funding in Pennsylvania. Speakers outlined funding approaches from a national, statewide, and local perspective and laid out solutions for returning Pennsylvania to the path of a "thorough and efficient" system of public education.

In 2011, the state cut funding for public schools by nearly $1 billion and amended out of law Pennsylvania's school funding formula. The consequences of those two actions can be seen in cities, suburbs, and small towns throughout Pennsylvania. Public schools have had to lay off 20,000 teachers and staff, resulting in increased class sizes and cuts to full-day kindergarten, music, and the arts.

The Philadelphia Inquirer has more on the symposium in Philadelphia:

If the Pennsylvania Legislature had not scrapped a statewide education-funding formula in 2011 it had approved three years earlier, the Philadelphia School District would have received $360 million more in state aid this year and would not be in a fiscal crisis now, an expert said Wednesday.

Instead of facing the $304 million deficit that led to the layoff of thousands of employees in June, Philadelphia's schools "would be beginning to get back into the game," John Myers, a national school-funding consultant involved in creating Pennsylvania's 2008 formula, said at a school-funding symposium.

The City Hall event was hosted by the Mayor's Office of Education and the Education Law Center in collaboration with the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, Public Citizens for Children and Youth, and Education Voters Pennsylvania.

Organizers said the program was an important first step in a campaign to increase the state's share of education funding and to develop a new, fair way to distribute it to districts across Pennsylvania that considers students' needs.

"This is a statewide issue that cannot be resolved without a statewide solution," said Rhonda Brownstein, executive director of the Education Law Center, the moderator.

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