The 2019-20 proposed state budget for Pennsylvania would spend $6.5 billion on basic education. This year, basic education consists of $5.5 billion distributed to districts under the “hold harmless” method and $538 million–all new basic education money from the 2015-16 fiscal year forward–distributed to districts under the student-weighted formula adopted by Act 35 of 2016.
Under the proposed budget, the share of student-weighted dollars would increase to $704 million and a separate $241 million block grant program called Ready to Learn would be moved into the basic education portion of the budget.
The Act 35 formula uses average daily membership, household income and local tax effort to compute a student-weighted value which then determines the share each district receives from the $704 million. As proposed, about a half-dozen districts would see a decrease in 2019-20.
All 43 districts in Allegheny County would see a boost in Act 35 dollars over this year; close to $10 million in additional money would de divided with the total in the county rising from $33.8 million to $43.2 million (28 percent). Steel Valley School District would see Act 35 money increase from $615,166 to $988,375 (61 percent). Woodland Hills School District would see an increase of close to $200,000, from $1.9 million to $2.1 million (10 percent).
Using these two districts and the Act 35 components for this fiscal year and next shows that Steel Valley’s student-weighted average daily membership and local tax effort indices increased. As a result, its student-weighted value increased 23 percent. Woodland Hills saw all three of its indices fall and would see student-weighted value fall 16 percent but it will still get more money.
Of course, the budget is still a proposal, and it will offer the opportunity for discussion on what taxpayers are getting in return for the increase in spending. PSSA results are not encouraging. Besides basic education there is another $6.6 billion in spending and growth of 3.61 percent, which is greater than the overall percentage change in the general fund (2.8 percent).