Advocate urges DV to join fair funding fight

Sandra Miller: 'There's a real need for a set formula' for Pennsylvania schools

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  • Sandra Miller, right, talks about funding reform before the Delaware Valley School Board (Photo by Anya Tikka)

Fair funding supporters

The Campaign for Fair Education Funding PA has the support of the following organizations:
Allies for Children
American Federation of Teachers-PA (AFT-PA)
Education Law Center
Education Policy and Leadership Center
PA Association of Elementary and Secondary School Principals (PAESSP)
PA Association of School Administrators (PASA)
PA Association of School Business Officials (PASBO)
PA Budget and Policy Center
PA Business Council
PA Coalition of Public Charter Schools
PA School Boards Ass’n (PSBA)
PA State Education Association (PSEA)

— Sandra Miller from the Campaign for Fair Education Funding PA says the way schools in Pennsylvania are funded has to change, because districts don’t know from year to year how state aid will affect their budgets.

“There’s a real need for a set formula regarding what the individual districts get every year," Miller told the Delaware Valley school board. The way funds are distributed doesn’t seem to follow logic, in a stark contrast to other states, she said.

Miller said she’s a circuit rider and a school board member in Saucon Valley. The campaign to gather support among school districts and individuals for a stable education funding formula.

Miller gave a brief overview of the history of Pennsylvania state funding, along with more recent developments. Pennsylvania is one of only three states with no set funding formula, she said.

After the meeting, Superintendent John Bell agreed with Miller's assessment.

“We never know what we’re getting, making budgeting very difficult," he said. “Instead, each year the legislature decides what they want it to be, and there’s no formula that says, for 'X' number of students, you get this much, and for so many special ed you get that much, transportation costs are this much. There is no formula."

He said the Campaign for Fair Education Funding wants there to be a statewide formula "so we would understand how much money will be coming to us, so we can plan for the future. We really don’t know."

Miller said Pennsylvania agreed to a new funding formula in 2008 but has not kept to it. Districts get their revenue mostly from local property taxes.

The Basic Education Funding Commission was established last year, with a goal to enact a new funding formula based on fairness. It continues to hold hearings in districts throughout the state. states what it’s looking for: “This formula should take into account student factors such as number of students who live in poverty, who are English language learners, and who are homeless. It should also take into account district factors such as the sparsity/size of the district, local tax effort, local wealth, and the number of students attending charter schools. A formula must be based on real factors and the real costs of delivering services.”

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