Will lawmakers stick with new education funding formula next year?

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – After a 10-month state budget stalemate, school districts across the state will start to receive millions of dollars in additional state funding. Governor Tom Wolf allowed the bill to go into effect without his signature.

“Certainly, schools are relieved that the money is going to flow now,” said Jim Buckheit, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators.

There are only a few months left in the fiscal year and talks about next year’s budget are just around the corner.

“One of the problems that Pennsylvania has had is that every year they keep changing how they give out money to schools, so there is no predictability,” Buckheit said.

Buckheit hopes lawmakers will stick with the new Basic Education Funding Appropriation which was approved in June.

Additional education funding is handed out to schools based on things like the number of students, poverty level, and the number of students who speak Spanish as a first language.

“I don’t think we want to abandon it. We need to let it work. The good thing about the legislation that created that formula is every five years they are to go back and revisit it to see if it needs adjusted, but they need to give it some time to work,” Buckheit said.

Not everyone is happy with the formula.

“The new formula came out in June and it showed the Pocono Mountain School District is underfunded by $28 million in basic education funding,” Rep. David Barker (R-Monroe) said.

Barker says he plans to introduce an amendment which would focus on basic education funding and school population.

“The money should follow the students, as far as if this school has 100 students and that school has 100, you each get the same amount of money. If the population at one school grows to 150 and the other school population drops to 50, then that money should go to the school where the population grew,” said Barker.

One thing is clear: school districts cannot afford another lengthy budget stalemate.

“Last year, districts were able to survive because of using local tax revenue and using reserves. This year, a lot of those options are no longer on the table, so if we experience anything like we did this year next year, we will see schools closing down in the fall,” Buckheit said.

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