Education Funding

Courtesy Good Jobs Healthy Communities

Public education advocates with the group Good Jobs Healthy Communities gathered outside the former William Penn School in Harrisburg Wednesday morning, as part of a week-long “occupation” of Pennsylvania’s capital city.

The vocational and alternative high school was closed by the school district in 2010 due to a lack of funds to upgrade the deteriorating structure. Classes were relocated to other buildings in the district.

Church groups seeking a radical solution to the large funding disparities among school districts are taking their message to the Capitol, even as other advocates continued to support an incremental approach to restoring education funding.

The United Way along with the Afterschool Alliance and two state lawmakers hosted a “crawl” to after-school programs in the city Wednesday.

The first stop was the Sarah Heinz House on the North Side. There they observed an after-school program for elementary school-aged children and heard from a panel of teens on their thoughts on after-school time.

The State of Funding Equity in Pennsylvania / The Education Trust

Pennsylvania has the third largest education funding gap in the nation between districts with the highest and lowest poverty rates.

That’s according to a new report from the Education Trust, an education policy organization, which called this gap “devastatingly large.”

“It’s another piece of evidence to indicate that we have a real problem with the school funding system here in Pennsylvania,” Patrick Dowd, executive director of Allies for Children, said.  Allies for Children is one of more than 50 organizations that have united for the Campaign for Fair Education Funding.

alamosbasement/ Flickr

Governor Tom Wolf releases his state budget proposal Tuesday, and the Campaign for Fair Education Funding has a few suggestions.

Several Education watchdog groups unveiled the plan Thursday.  

“The mission of the campaign is really to focus on this need for an equitable system of funding in Pennsylvania that has enough resources in it to be sure every child has an equal chance to meet our standards,” Joan Benso, PA Partnerships for Children president and CEO, said. Benso's group is just one of several organizations working on the campaign.


For as long as property taxes have been used to locally funded schools, there has been a debate over fairness and it might come to head this year in Pennsylvania.

State Senator Matt Smith (D – Allegheny) is hopeful the 2015-16 budget will incorporate a funding formula for Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts.

He is a member of the Basic Education Funding Commission, which is tasked with crafting the formula.  Created in June, the 15-member commission has about six months to go until it must submit a proposal to the legislature.

A new state report puts to bed the notion that merging all of the school districts in York County would save taxpayers' money.

York County state lawmakers asked the Independent Fiscal Office to consider the issue, frequently cited as a possible solution to climbing property tax rates to support schools.

"Generally, every town hall meeting we had people ask, 'Why not consolidate school districts?'" said Rep. Seth Grove (R-York).

When several school districts sued state officials recently over education funding, they re-lit a torch that advocates have been carrying for decades. The lawsuit is a follow-up to a similar legal challenge filed in 1991 and tossed out in 1999, without a resolution.

Judges in the Commonwealth Court and the state Supreme Court said they couldn’t measure whether districts were delivering a sub-par education because of inadequate state funding.

A commission charged with examining the state’s basic education funding formula heard from a number of education officials at an Allegheny County hearing this week.

“The message is clear that we need to come up, as a commission, with a fair, equitable and transparent way to distribute education investment throughout the commonwealth,” said Sen. Matt Smith (D-Allegheny/Washington), one of 15 commission members.

AP Photo/Rodney Johnson,WTAE-TV, Pool

Republican Gov. Tom Corbett and Democratic challenger Tom Wolf met for their third and final debate in Wilkinsburg Wednesday evening.

The tone was less combative than previous debates, which Wolf attributed to the format of the debate, in which each candidate had one minute to respond to questions from an in-studio panel and the public via social media.

The main topics of the evening were education funding and the state’s pension debt shortfall.

Bob Herbert on How We’re “Losing Our Way”

Oct 7, 2014
Justin Garland / Flickr

For nearly 20 years Bob Herbert was an award-winning columnist for the New York Times. His book, titled "Losing Our Way: An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled America, " chronicles ordinary Americans struggling for survival in a nation that has lost its way. We’ll talk with Bob Herbert prior to his upcoming appearance at Carnegie Mellon University’s McConomy Auditorium on Thursday, October 9 and discover the Pittsburgh ties to the book.

Herbert’s book centers on the idea that the United States has been heading in the wrong direction when it comes to the economy and the stakes of ordinary people. In the face of “perpetual war and economic decline,” Herbert stresses, leadership in America seems unwilling or unable to make forward progress.  Part of the problem, Herbert argues, is that America’s leadership has become preoccupied with short-term thinking. 

Gates Foundation via Flickr Creative Commons

90.5 WESA is exploring several of the key issues being debated as part of the 2014 Pennsylvania gubernatorial campaign. Here's some background on the issue of education funding.

Pennsylvania Democratic gubernatorial challenger Tom Wolf has made it abundantly clear he disapproves of the way Republican Gov. Tom Corbett has handled public education during his tenure in office. Wolf has pledged to fund public schools at rates higher than the current governor has as well as put more of a general emphasis on education if elected.

Eleven school directors and former superintendents set off across Pennsylvania Wednesday to educate school administrators about the broken education funding system.

The group, deemed “regional circuit riders,” will spend the next year advocating for better distributed basic education funding. They completed a two-day training Tuesday.

The state will distribute more than $5.5 billion among 500 school districts this fiscal year. Each district will receive the same amount it was awarded last year.  

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.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

The he said, she said debate over state education funding and the controversy surrounding former Pennsylvania Education Secretary Ron Tomalis made its way to Pittsburgh Wednesday morning.

Former gubernatorial hopeful Katie McGinty spoke in the Allegheny County Courthouse gallery, criticizing Gov. Tom Corbett and stumping for Democratic nominee Tom Wolf.

McGinty is chairwoman of the Campaign for a Fresh Start, a new organization working in tandem with Wolf’s campaign for governor and the campaigns of Democratic legislative nominees statewide.

Not everyone thinks schools in Pennsylvania are hurting for money.

For years, Republican lawmakers and officials have insisted that school districts have more money than they're letting on — in the form of rainy day funds. According to the state Department of Education, school districts reported having $4.27 billion leftover in their fund balances as of the 2012-13 fiscal year.

Education funding cuts are front and center once again in a tiff between Pennsylvania’s candidates for governor.

A recent television attack ad highlights the issue, which has dogged Republican incumbent Gov. Tom Corbett in the polls for years.

In the spot, a narrator says Corbett “cut nearly a billion dollars from education, forcing schools districts to fire 20,000 teachers and staff.”

A survey of traditional Pennsylvania school districts paints a grim picture for the coming academic year, with most respondents bracing for higher costs and fewer resources.

56 percent of school districts in the state responded to the study conducted by the PA Association of School Administrators (PASA) and the PA Association of School Business Officials (PASBO). The survey, conducted annually since 2010, did not include responses from public charter or cyber charter schools.

Leaders of statewide groups that represent school boards, school business officials and educational coalitions released a survey they commissioned among selected voters in Pennsylvania.

The majority of the voters surveyed said public schools affect the economy and that school funding should be increased.

When asked, 84 percent of voters in Pennsylvania said they believe public schools have a very strong effect on economic development. Advocates say this is evidence the state needs a fairer funding formula.