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The story of Pennsylvania’s per pupil school funding in two maps and a chart

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

(Note: To use the interactive map, please visit newsworks.org)

Although Pennsylvania has adopted a new school funding formula, the state’s distribution of dollars still largely disregards the actual needs of students.

When dividing its largest pot of education cash, Pennsylvania provides the most funding (per pupil) to districts where enrollment has steeply declined over the past 25 years.

Of the top 25 districts in terms of per-pupil state funding, all but one has seen enrollment drop since 1991, when the state implemented a "hold harmless" policy.

Under that rule, the state stopped counting actual students when deciding how to allocate dollars. So districts that shrank did not see corresponding decreases in state aid, and, therefore, per-pupil funding increased.

Each of the top five districts by state per-pupil funding have seen enrollment drops of at least 30 percent.

As the interactive map above shows, many of the districts that receive the most per-pupil funding from the state are clustered in the rural western and central parts of the commonwealth — where population declines have been steep.

The map is color graded by per pupil funding from the state’s main public school budget line, the basic education subsidy — which this year totalled $5.68 billion.

In addition to the dollars noted above, districts receive other monies from the state, as well as from local and federal sources.

These calculations are based on a Keystone Crossroads’ analysis of Pennsylvania Department of Education enrollment data along with 2015-16 school budget data.

Read the rest of this story at NewsWorks

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