Ciresi introduces bill to achieve fair funding for all school districts

The interior of the dome of the Pennsylvania Capitol where the state lawmakers meet is shown in Harrisburg, Pa., in this March 22, 2021, file photo.

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HARRISBURG — State Rep. Joe Ciresi introduced a bill with a comprehensive plan to achieve fair funding for Pennsylvania school districts.

House Bill 1595 would amend the Public School Code of 1949 to fully implement both the Basic Education Funding (BEF) and Special Education Funding (SEF) formulas phased in over five years and eliminate “hold harmless.”

Pennsylvania enacted a Fair Funding Formula in 2016 yet only 11% of basic education and 13.6% of special education dollars are sent through the formulas.

In 2016 the General Assembly established the student-weighted Basic Education Funding formula which directed money to schools based on factors such as student enrollment, student population needs, and wealth of the school district.

The Special Education Funding formula established between 2014-15 directed funding to districts that have the greatest need for additional resources based on the cost of special education students.

According to Ciresi, most of the state BEF and SEF moneys go to ‘hold harmless’ meaning that a school district gets the same amount of basic education funding received previously, instead of being funded fully under the newer, fairer formulas. This forces school districts, especially those that are growing, to rely more heavily on property taxes to fund operations, consequently widening the gap between poor and rich districts.

“It’s time to commit ourselves to using real data based on actual need to fund education, which is the reason we created these formulas in the first place. H.B. 1595 would put Pennsylvania back on track to fairly distributing education dollars so that we can achieve equitable funding for every student,” Ciresi said.

The bill was referred to the Education Committee.

This article originally ran on theprogressnews.com.

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