Fix PA State Education Funding Formula

Eric Boehm on the new ELC report:

The Education Law Center, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that advocates for more equitable education funding, published a report on Tuesday calling for the restoration of a state-level educational funding formula along the lines of the one discontinued by the Corbett administration. The group said Pennsylvania is one of only three states that does not use a formula to determine basic education funding.

The new report calls for Pennsylvania to adopt an education funding formula that reflects accuracy, fairness, and transparency and takes into account student enrollment totals.

“In other words, is the right amount of money going to the right place — and can legislators and the public see it? In Pennsylvania, the current answer is no,” said Rhonda Brownstein, executive director of the Education Law Center.

Across all districts, 53 percent of education spending in Pennsylvania comes from local funding sources, while the state picks up the tab for 36 percent and the federal government kicks in 11 percent.

But there is significant variance among districts, thanks in part to a decades-old state provision known as “hold harmless” that makes it difficult for the state to shift dollars into districts with expanding populations from districts where student enrollment is shrinking.

We’ve covered how the current state funding distribution perpetuates racial inequality, and how Tom Corbett made a conscious choice to go back to distributing the money this way, quietly rolling back Rendell-era reforms.

I would also add that the “hold harmless” law leads to perverse land use and development choices. Growing districts are punished by the current approach and shrinking districts are rewarded. Consequently, any time local politicians are inclined to make pro-growth land use and development choices that would grow the local population, there’s inevitable pushback from people understandably worried that more growth will lead to more families moving in, sending their school taxes soaring.

This is nuts. The state needs to reward local governments who want to grow their populations, not punish them.


  1. Ah, here we go again. Let’s not fix anything let’s just throw more money at it!

    Do your parents realize what a waste of time college was for you? Do you ever do any analysis, research, work, etc.? Do you hate children so much that you want public education to continue to be the failure that it is?

    Here’s the right way to go about this – fix public education, figure out what the cost is for the fixed model, then fund that. Any dope with any experience in the real world knows that if you lob money at it before it’s fixed it won’t ever get fixed and all it will be is a money pit with our children the losers.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      It amazes me how you rightwingers expect poor kids to do better with less money than rich kids. Why not just support the equal spending per student point and then argue that more reforms are required? That’s my position. It’s not just that schools in poor areas are underfunded, but it is a fact that schools in poor areas are underfunded relative to schools in wealthy areas.

  2. Because when you argue reforms after the money moves you’ve already lost the economic argument.

    Also, where did I say spend less money? I’d be happy spending more if it weren’t wasted and the kids benefited.

    You want to waste money now in the hopes you get reform later – like I said, that only works in Fantasyland a/k/a policy class.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      I want every kid to get the same amount of money for school. I don’t think that funding for poor kids should be held hostage to other policy reform goals, meanwhile rich kids get full funding. That’s totally unjust.

      • I”d rather the kids get a better education than just throw more of someone else’s money at it. All you’ll accomplish is waste with no benefits.

        You might want to actually improve public education at some point instead of buying more political support from the teacher’s union?

        Again, why do you hate kids so much that you’re willing to continue to sacrifice their future like this?

        • Jon Geeting says:

          All kids deserve equal funding. Full stop. After they get equal funding, it will be clear that more reforms are needed. You’re drastically exaggerating how much waste there is. Poor schools are cutting stuff like full-day kindergarten and after school sports and activities that definitely are not waste.

          • Wrong – all kids deserve a quality education. Full stop.

            I would love, LOVE, to be on the other side of the negotiating table with a neophyte like you. You never, NEVER, give up $$ without getting what you want. Period. Full stop. End of fucking story.

            Your path would set back public education even further and make it that much tougher and more expensive to fix.

            You can’t be this naive, can you?

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