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Pennsylvania still getting low grades on funding

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Reflecting the state’s disparities in school funding among school districts, Pennsylvania earned a grade of only C- for resource equity from Education Week magazine in the recently-released "Quality Counts 2005" report. This report annually compares and grades the states on a wide array of education indicators.

For school funding equity, Pennsylvania’s ranking remains near the bottom, at 43rd in the nation, though the state has inched up a notch from recent grades of D+.

A big factor in the determination of Pennsylvania’s perennially low score on school funding for "Quality Counts" is a measure that Education Week calls the "wealth neutrality score." This index tracks whether wealthy school districts are spending significantly more per pupil than poorer districts.

Pennsylvania’s statewide school funding system is still heavily dependent on revenue from property taxes, and so wealthy districts are often able to spend more on education than poorer ones.

A change in the methodology used by the magazine for grading schools this year could account for the change in Pennsylvania’s score, rather than enhanced funding equity.

The annual funding ratings are based on measures of school funding taken two years earlier, and so this year’s results are from 2002, the year before Governor Ed Rendell took office.

In its annual survey of the states, Education Week found that 31 states are considering major changes in how they pay for education.

Janis Risch, communications director of the fair funding advocacy group Good Schools Pennsylvania, commented, "Until we have a responsible school finance system in place, every quality of life indicator for every Pennsylvanian will suffer."

"It’s crucial that the governor and the legislature this year continue to take steps to reduce the opportunity gap," Risch added.