A “C” for School Finance

A “C” for School Finance

Where is Miss Shields from “A Christmas Story” when you need her?  Maybe Pennsylvania could have been given at least a C+ like Ralphie on the latest national education report card, this one produced by the Network for Public Education.

PA received a “D” overall but it tied with 29 other states and DC for that score, and no state received higher than a “C”; there is much work to be done according to the Network.

Much of the report’s take on school finance, where PA received a “C” grade, is based on the belief that the state does not put enough money into K-12 education and does not distribute it correctly, which is much of what the Basic Education Funding Commission heard for a year leading up to the release of its recommended formula in June of 2015.  From the report “states must sufficiently fund public education and then implement financial policies that are ‘progressive’ meaning they provide the most funds to districts that demonstrate the greatest need”.

In Allegheny County, on a per-pupil basis in 2013-14, money from state revenues went in the greatest amounts to Duquesne ($15,479), Clairton ($9,937), McKeesport ($8,604), Pittsburgh ($8,602) and Wilkinsburg ($8,045).  The districts at the bottom of the distribution were Quaker Valley ($2,364), South Fayette ($2,691), Pine-Richland ($2,703), Mt. Lebanon ($2,742), and Upper St Clair ($2,750).  But when local revenues are added in many districts at the low end leapfrog districts at the high end–is that the fault of the amount of effort the state puts forth?  Or is it the simple fact that when school districts with wildly different tax bases are able to generate money locally there will be significantly different results in the revenue available for school spending?

As we suggested in a Brief from September advocates who want to prevent this situation should call for a complete end to local taxation by school districts and move all school financing to the state level and then the state could decide the best method for funding schools (same per-pupil amount per district, more per-pupil in needier districts, etc.)