Mapping: How Pa.’s new school funding formula measures district need

    State recognizes the incredible burdens faced by districts.

    Pennsylvania’s new education funding formula acknowledges that 74 school districts across the commonwealth face burdens so high, that it’s as if they must serve more than double their actual student populations.

    This comes because the formula takes into account student poverty, language fluency, median household income, local tax capacity and other factors.

    For ten districts, the formula says it’s as if they must serve more than four times actual enrollment.

    For 151 districts, the formula determines their need by saying it’s as if they serve fewer students than they actually enroll.

    The new formula gives directions for how to divide state education dollars — no matter the size of the pot.  It does not gauge need based on how much funding would be adequate to ensure that all students can meet state expectations.

    Advocates say that all districts need more funding in order to reach that end.

    In the map above, districts on the red scale are determined by the formula to be most in need of the state’s help.

    Those on the blue scale are determined to need the least.

    By systematically acknowledging that some districts face higher hurdles and therefore must spend more to educate their children, the state has taken a major step forward.

    Lawmakers have long known, for instance, that the York City School District carries a huge burden. Now, though, that burden is codified into a formula that actually dictates the distribution of dollars.

    Averaged over the past three years, York’s actual enrollment is 7,737.

    But when the eight factors of the formula are applied to York, the final enrollment figure used to decide how to divide money is adjusted up to 52,449.

    That’s 6.8 times its actual — the 2nd highest multiple in the state, behind Duquesne City School District.

    For a detailed description of how the new formula works, see here.

    Below is a list of the top 25 districts ranked by the multiple difference between actual and adjusted enrollment.

    Duquesne City SDYork City SDReading SDHarrisburg City SDChester-Upland SDLancaster SDSto-Rox SDAllentown City SDMidland Borough SDSharon City SDShenandoah Valley SDLebanon SDErie City SDClairton City SDPanther Valley SDNew Castle Area SDNew Kensington-Arnold SDFarrell Area SDWilkes-Barre Area SDCarbondale Area SDGreater Johnstown SDPhiladelphia City SDAliquippa SDBig Beaver Falls Area SDScranton SD

    Examples

    In Midland Borough, which serves 434 students, the formula says it’s as if enrollment is 1,866 — 4.3 times higher.

    In Philadelphia, which serves 202,988 students, it’s as if enrollment is 689,336 — 3.4 times the actual.

    In wealthy Lower Merion, which serves 7,687 students, the formula’s calculation cuts that figure down to 2,586 in deciding how to divide state aid. That’s 34 percent of its actual.

    With the final adjustment numbers in hand, the state divides funding accordingly.

    Lower Merion’s final enrollment number represents .0009 percent of the state’s entire number. So it received .0009 percent of the money that went through the formula in the 2015-16 budget year.

    Likewise, Philadelphia has about 24 percent of the state’s total adjusted student population and received about 24 percent of the funding.

    Although Pittsburgh is the 2nd largest school district in the state by actual enrollment, it drops down to the seventh spot according to the formula’s adjusted enrollment calculus.

    In effect, the needs in Reading, Allentown, York, Lancaster and Erie make it as if they each serve a higher population than Pittsburgh – and the dollars flowed accordingly.

    Those dollars, though, reflect only a tiny fraction of the state’s entire basic education subsidy.

    Lawmakers plan to use the formula to disperse only new increases in aid – which, in the near term, will barely affect the disparities that were created through decades of non-formula-based distributions, when not even shifts in enrollment were tracked.

    This year, of a $5.6 billion budget, the general assembly sent about $152 million through the formula — under 3 percent.

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