This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Last week, Gov. Wolf signed into law a new formula for distributing state education money in Pennsylvania.
As a general rule, public school money that comes from the state is meant to help level the playing field for districts that have a harder time generating local revenue.
A state formula is the tool used to decide how the pie of money should be sliced. In effect, it’s the state’s way of acknowledging which districts need the most help.
Most advocates call this a major step forward — the state had been one of only three in the nation lacking a student-weighted formula.
By counting actual enrollment shifts and acknowledging that some districts must spend more to educate their children, the formula adds predictability to a system that’s often been swayed by the political powers of the moment.
But lawmakers plan to use the formula to disperse only new increases in aid, locking in the disparities that were created through decades of non-formula-based distributions.
This year, the General Assembly sent about $152 million of a $5.6 billion budget through the formula — less than 3 percent.
The formula also does not calculate how much money it takes to ensure that all students can meet state academic standards. That "adequacy" question is one that the creators of the formula specifically avoided.