In addition to their responses to our question about Pennsylvania's current approach to K-12 education funding, the nine candidates were invited to give additional explanations of their positions on school funding issues.
The charter school reimbursement line item was designed to provide transition funding for school districts in the early years of the charter school movement. At the time, school districts had no way to estimate the number of students that would choose to enroll in a charter school and properly plan for this expenditure in their budget. Since that time, charter school enrollment has become more predictable and districts no longer face significant budget uncertainties.
However, I do not believe we should focus on the charter school reimbursement line item. In fact, Pennsylvania needs, and I have proposed the creation of a charter school funding commission to study the way charter and cyber schools are funded. The formula, which was established at the inception of the charter school movement, has not been updated in 15 years. Charter school funding must be reviewed to determine if it is in the best interest of Pennsylvania students or if changes are warranted. Transitioning to a student-focused funding formula, as noted above, for both traditional and charter school students has significant potential to improve the distribution of education funding in Pennsylvania.
There’s a governor’s race in Pennsylvania in 2014, and education is a hot issue as Gov. Tom Corbett seeks re-election. Party primaries take place May 20 and the general election is Nov. 4.
At press time, Corbett, a Republican, and eight Democratic candidates had announced their plans to run.
An October poll conducted by Franklin and Marshall College indicates that 21 percent of respondents feel that the state of schools and school funding is the most important issue in Pennsylvania. The Corbett administration has been blamed for cuts to education funding as well as the 2011 abandonment of a statewide funding formula passed in 2008. But Corbett is not surrendering the issue to Democrats.
In a press conference announcing his bid for re-election, Corbett said, “We have a responsibility to provide a good education to all children in Pennsylvania, but it starts with an honest discussion about education funding.”
The Notebook invited each candidate to submit a biography and asked them to give their positions on state education funding by responding to the following questions in 250 words or less:
The current way of funding schools in Pennsylvania shortchanges too many school districts and the students in those communities, and Gov. Corbett’s more than $1 billion in education cuts have only made the problem worse.
I believe that it is past time to restore the funding formula for basic education, in order to ensure that every Pennsylvania student has access to a quality education, regardless of who he or she is or where he or she lives. I would return to a funding formula that accounts for the wealth available in the local community, the cost of instruction, and the number of students being served.
Funding of K-12 education in Pennsylvania is a disaster and is facilitating the privatization of our schools. State government should provide at least 50 percent of K-12 funding, instead of the approximately 32 percent it does now. I will increase funding by $1 billion within two years.
One of my top priorities will be finding new ways to increase funding for preschool services, public schools, and higher education in Pennsylvania.
Since taking office, Gov. Corbett has imposed unacceptable cuts in education funding, and our schools are feeling the impacts of those cuts. As a father with two children in an urban school district, I see the damage these cuts are causing.