This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
With Pennsylvania’s new student-weighted school funding formula, the state took a big step forward this year to begin to correct decades of inequities.
But much of the disparity that has grown over time is set to be locked in place for many years to come.
A new study by the faith-based advocacy group POWER looks at this dynamic and finds that school districts serving more students of color will be most negatively affected.
POWER says this amounts to "systemic racial bias."
The new formula itself has been widely lauded, as it injects common sense into what had become a haphazard system for distributing state aid.
If the new formula were used to divide the entire basic education subsidy — which is by far the largest pot of state school funding — the most money per pupil would go to the schools facing the greatest challenges. This would be a major boon for districts with more students of color.
But that’s not the plan.
Lawmakers aim to use the formula only to divide new increases in funding. So, at this point, of a $5.8 billion pot, that adds up to about 6 percent of the whole.
"What we’ve said is, now that we understand exactly how racially biased the historical funding has been, let’s lock it into place and continue it going forward, and only change it in a very minor way, diluting it with a little bit of fair funding," said David Mosenkis, the report’s author.
Mosenkis finds that the districts with the fewest white students are currently shortchanged according to the formula by almost $2,000 per pupil, while the districts with the most white students get about $2,000 more per pupil than what the formula says is their "fair share."