Jun. 18, 2015

HARRISBURG - Rep. Stan Saylor (R-York) announced that the Basic Education Funding Commission recommended today that the General Assembly adopt a new formula for distributing state funding for basic education to Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts.

Saylor, who is the chairman of the House Education Committee and one of the 15 people appointed to the commission, said the group undertook an extensive and comprehensive study of a number of factors before arriving ultimately at a consensus on a new formula that will benefit school districts, parents and children.  

“This is a good report and contains a lot of information that will allow the House Education Committee to quickly move forward with legislation to revise the way we fund public education in Pennsylvania,” Saylor said. “Last month, the House passed my comprehensive school property tax reform legislation by a large bipartisan vote. But that was only half the battle. We all know that our schools and students suffer under an archaic school funding formula that is inequitable, particularly the more than 20-year-old “hold harmless” provision in the state Education Code which states that no school district can receive less state funding than the year before. At a minimum we need to ensure that any additional basic education funding for school districts does not succumb to the same standard. Our public school funding is in need of an update and the committee is going to move forward on that.”

In detail, the commission did not take a position on Hold Harmless, but it did recognize there are issues with eliminating it or keeping it.  The report offered three options for the General Assembly to consider:

•    Create a base funding year with a dollar amount and money under Hold Harmless would flow as normal up until that base year, and money after that would be subjected to a new formula.
•    For schools that are getting more than needed under Hold Harmless there would be a gradual reduction each year until they are cash balanced under a new formula so that no harm is done.
•    Completely eliminate Hold Harmless by phasing it out over a 10-year period.
The commission did not endorse any of those three options.

The commission also looked into school consolidations, technical and career education, and the unfunded mandates for gifted students.

The report noted that consolidation, could in some cases, provide administrative savings which may lead to  greater learning opportunities for students. Consolidations may be done with services, administrative staff, with buildings, or entire school districts.

While a consolidation study may indicate many benefits and cost savings for a school district down the road, oftentimes the initial costs dissuade consolidations from moving forward. The commission recommended that the General Assembly consider capitalizing a fund within the Department of Education to assist school districts with startup costs to encourage consolidations where they would be beneficial.

The commission also recognized the contribution career and technical education schools make to our economy. Students come out of these schools with very low debt loads and in most cases 90 percent or more of them land good-paying careers shortly after graduation. The commission recommended that the General Assembly consider including studying the additional costs relating to career and technical education and account for these in a funding formula to further support these programs.

Currently, school districts are mandated to provide additional services for gifted students, without any additional funding.. The commission’s report recommended that the Department of Education and the General Assembly look into exactly what the additional costs are for meeting these mandates for gifted students and consider including some type of factor reflecting those extra costs in an existing funding formula.

Representative Stan Saylor
94th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Charles Lardner
www.RepSaylor.com / Facebook.com/RepSaylor