This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
The Campaign for Fair Education Funding (CFEF), a statewide coalition of more than 50 organizations, recently released a report on the implications of the education proposals being debated in Harrisburg.
The report, “Lifting All Students: Why Pennsylvania Must Act Now to Fairly Fund Public Education and Secure Our Future,” details the practical outcomes for school districts across the state under both the $410 million funding increase in Gov. Wolf’s proposed budget and the $100 million increase proposed by Republican legislators.
“This report was an effort to make clear what is at stake if we get a truly robust education funding formula and an influx of funding this year,” said Ian Gavigan, policy and communications associate at the Education Law Center, a leading member of CFEF.
“It was an effort to ground the discussion in what actually happens in each district.”
In June, the campaign endorsed a fair funding formula proposed by the Basic Education Funding Commission. Although the formula has received general support in Harrisburg, debate continues over exactly how it should be implemented.
“The formula divides out the money, but it doesn’t dictate how much money is actually put in,” said Michael Race, vice president of communications at Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children.
The report supports Wolf’s plan to complement the formula’s introduction with extra funds, helping to close large funding gaps among Pennsylvania’s school districts.
Gov. Wolf’s proposed state budget aims to close the funding gap between Pennsylvania school districts. His proposal lays out a $410 million increase in funding, compared to the $100 million backed by Republicans. This map shows the difference in district funding between the two proposals. Click on a school district to see the amount received in each scenario; darker and lighter shades indicate the degree of funding difference between each scenario. (Source: Campaign for Fair Education Funding’s report "Lifting All Students: Why Pennsylvania Must Act Now to Fairly Fund Public Education and Secure Our Future")
Philadelphia, one of the districts hit hardest by the 2011 budget cuts, would benefit significantly. The report predicts a boost of $120 million more from Wolf’s proposal than what Republican legislators are suggesting.
“We’re regularly in Harrisburg, pushing legislators on this issue, presenting this report and other data about increasing equity and adequacy in schools,” said Gavigan, adding that he hopes both legislators and advocates will be able to use the research.
Race agrees. “Ultimately, we want it to be useful to lawmakers,” he said. “The next steps are not only ensuring that the formula is adopted, but that it’s maintained and not dismantled in future years. Then it’s a matter of ensuring that there are sufficient resources put into the formula to actually get districts what they need to educate students.”