Since last July, a Basic Education Funding Commission has been collecting testimony across the state, charged by Harrisburg with developing a rational system for distributing state education aid. Their work is urgently needed.
Not only is current state funding for most Pennsylvania districts inadequate, it is unpredictable and subject to political manipulation. And any system that makes taxpayers in poor districts pay tax rates two or three times higher than in affluent districts and still end up with less revenue is deeply flawed. The system relies far too much on local tax dollars.
The size of the pie matters, not just how you slice it.
This is one finding of a new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts' Philadelphia Research Initiative, which looked at 10 big-city school districts across the country and compared how the state funding formulas of each affected funding at the district level.
Experts, advocates, and ordinary citizens from Philadelphia on Tuesday told legislators charged with revising Pennsylvania's education funding formula that city schools are reeling from the consequences of insufficient revenue and urged the panel to base state aid on real student need.
"Philadelphia schools are now a strong investment," said School Reform Commission Chair Bill Green to the members of the Basic Education Funding Commission, which has been holding hearings around the state. He said that several years ago, while on City Council, he didn't believe this, but that he is now confident in the leadership of Superintendent William Hite.
OK, let's get right to the looming question: Did Gov. Corbett cut a billion dollars from public, K-12 education?
That question can be answered in different ways. It all depends on what you count, and how you count it.
If you say yes, Corbett did cut the money, here's how your logic goes, as put together by Democrat Tom Wolf.
Dale Mezzacappaon Sep 2, 2014 11:32 AM
Beginning high school is daunting enough for most young people. But this year, students in Philadelphia face worries that most of their counterparts in more reliably funded districts don’t have.
Will their schedules be disrupted if more layoffs become necessary and some teachers disappear? Will counselors be available to make sure they are taking the courses they need? Will their high school even offer all the courses they want – in some cases, courses that attracted them to that school in the first place?
Note: This is adapted from a brief that was published Aug. 8 by the Philadelphia-based group Research for Action. The full brief can be found here.
Philadelphia’s school funding situation is a central issue in state policy discussions. The recent debate has focused on city’s authority to raise taxes on cigarettes. But the essential questions on whether the school system has enough money have been present in the state capitol for at least two decades.
The Commonwealth Foundation released a brief on Philadelphia school trends recently that received prominent attention in the local press. It argued that despite a funding increase, the District has little academic improvement to show for it.
You can hear them calling in the street.
They lean on corners, squat on milk crates, rest on folding chairs – angling for a buck.
At the bustling intersection where Erie and Germantown Avenues slice through North Broad Street, they occupy every corner, calling to passersby:
They're the city's black market cigarette hawks.
From packs semi-hidden in coat pockets or under thighs, the hawks sell individual "loosie" cigarettes. On a recent hot Friday afternoon, the going rate on North Broad was 50 cents a pop.
Gov. Corbett is authorizing a $265 million advance to the Philadelphia School District.
This is an early disbursement of money that the district was already scheduled to receive, and thus does not erase the district's $81 million budget gap.
As the head of the Philadelphia School Partnership, Mark Gleason sits at the heart of the school reform movement in Philadelphia.
PSP is the conduit for tens of millions in philanthropic dollars, which it deploys to support what it calls “the transformation, expansion and startup of high-performing schools.” It measures success by “the number of students in Philadelphia who move out of failing schools to better-quality school options.”
As Pennsylvania lawmakers appear to be at a stalemate over a cigarette tax proposal for Philadelphia schools, advocates worry that tax-averse legislators have a fundamental misunderstanding of their city's situation.
An "us-vs.-them" mentality pervades any debate involving education funding for the Philadelphia School District. Many Republican lawmakers have balked at the notion of approving a tax authorization for Philadelphia when it doesn't benefit their own districts.