Pennsylvania’s Basic Education Funding Commission held two more hearings this month to gather feedback on how the commonwealth funds its public schools.
An Oct. 16 hearing in Montgomery County featured testimony from several southeastern Pennsylvania superintendents who called for a new Basic Education Funding formula that, among other things:
- Addresses both equity and adequacy - and adjusts for student population changes;
- Eliminates a “hold harmless” funding provision over time to give districts time to adjust to any negative impact;
- Acknowledges the numbers of tax-exempt properties in a school district and the difference between local property taxes paid by residential properties owners (which bring additional students to the district) and commercial/industrial properties;
- Includes a factor to account for the cost of living in the district; and
- Automatically adjusts annually to cover increasing costs, such as health care.
An Oct. 21 hearing included a panel of Pittsburgh-area education leaders who told the commission:
- When using student enrollment in a funding formula, it cannot be done in isolation. School districts often continue to have costs associated with students who leave the district to attend private, parochial or charter schools, such as transportation costs.
- Any efforts to eliminate hold harmless must be carefully evaluated and would be devastating to many districts.
- A new formula should include costs associated with arts education and athletics.
- A new funding formula should include a factor on the percentage of commercial properties in the district, which provide local revenues without adding additional students to the district.
- A new formula should also incentivize our most effective teachers to teach our highest need students.
Upcoming commission hearings are planned for: Nov. 6 in Harrisburg; Nov. 18 and 19 in Philadelphia; Nov. 24 in Lancaster; Dec. 4 in East Stroudsburg; and Dec. 10 in Lancaster. Testimony and videos of previous hearings, as well as details on upcoming hearings, can be found on the Basic Education Funding Commission’s website.
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