Pa. panel begins ‘historic’ work on education funding

A recently established panel to devise a new way of distributing state funding to Pennsylvania public schools is about ready to get to work.

 

 

At a brief organizational meeting, members hastened to call the commission historical.

In a way, it is.

Advocates have been calling for more education money since 2011, when schools saw cuts to overall spending.

That was also the same year lawmakers scrapped a 3-year-old formula of divvying up money among schools.

For those reasons, the commission comes at a critical point for public schools,said Rep. James Roebuck, D-Philadelphia.

“What perhaps suggests historical importance is that it seems to me that we’re at crisis point in education in Pennsylvania and we’ve got to make some fairly basic, fundamental decisions on where we go,” he said. “So that, perhaps, gives this commission potentially a more important role going forward.”

The commission is expected to examine a policy that prevents a backslide in school districts’ state aid, and could also look at charter school funding.

But education funding is also a decades-old polemic that overlaps with thorny issues of wealth and population disparities, rapidly growing school districts, local property taxes, and charter schools.

Rep. Mike Vereb, R-Montgomery County, acknowledges the commission faces an uphill battle.

“The system’s broke. And we’ve been talking about this system now for many years,” he said.

The panel’s recommendations are due to the Legislature next June. Lawmakers are not required to approve or implement their colleagues’ suggestions.

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