This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
In 2008, Pennsylvania’s state legislature adopted a new formula for driving out dollars to school districts based on a “costing-out” study completed the year before.
The study said that 474 of the 501 districts – even many that tax themselves heavily – do not spend enough to bring all their students to academic proficiency. Philadelphia alone would need to spend about an additional $1 billion a year, the study said.
The study determined the amount each district should spend by weighting student needs, including poverty and English language status.
In total, the study said that Pennsylvania should be spending an additional $4.4 billion a year to provide every student with an adequate education. Gov. Rendell determined that the state should increase its contribution by $2.6 billion a year by 2014, with the rest of the additional money raised locally.
In 2008-09, the legislature increased basic education funding by $275 million.
But when the recession took hold the following year, the legislature relied on $654 million in federal stimulus dollars to continue to boost spending. At the same time it sharply reduced the state’s own contribution to basic education by $354 million. The net effect for 2009-10 was a $300 million increase to the state basic education line item.
In 2010-11, Harrisburg increased state basic education spending by another $200 million. However, it again used federal stimulus money to pay for $654 million of its total contribution.
In the third year under the new funding formula, state funding is less than one-third of the way toward the goal of a $2.6 billion increase by 2014.
If you don’t count federal stimulus dollars, which are used up this year, the state’s own contribution to spending on education is barely higher than it was in 2007-08. And the commitment to the goal, and to the formula itself, is dependent on a new administration and legislature that will take office next year.