New Commission Works to Create New Public Education Funding Formula

Aug 25, 2014

When it comes to public education funding in Pennsylvania, one size does not fit all, especially when it’s $5.5 billion this fiscal year being divided among 500 school districts.

That’s according to state Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-Chester), who is part of a 15-member commission that was created in June with the goal of finding a formula for distributing state funding to schools in a fair and efficient manner.

“You know what happens is, we tend to always, even as people, do things the way they have been done,” Dinniman said. “So the role of the commission is to really perhaps come up with a new paradigm.”

On Wednesday, the commission held its first of four tentative public hearings before the end of October.

Dinniman said they were provided with information about the state of education in Pennsylvania, and what he learned surprised him.

“What intrigued me was the fact that the way the formula works, which was devised decades ago, may have nothing to do with the reality of the economics of education today and the changes in individual school districts,” Dinniman said.

According to the commission, the new formula should consider the number of students in each of Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts and the amount of tax money raised locally.

“Everyone’s saying that one of the real problems of the school districts is there is no predictability,” Dinniman said. “So if we come up with a good formula and we’re able to add the predictability aspect to it, then I think that will make a significant difference.”

The commission’s recommendations are due to the Legislature by next June.

“When you have a formula, you have predictability, and you also always have to allow any formula to incorporate or be sensitive to the changes that could occur every two or three years,” Dinniman said. “So I’m optimistic that we’re going to come up with something better.”

The next hearing will be held in Lehigh Valley in early September. The location, date and time are to be announced.