Meadville Tribune

State News

January 18, 2014

State House looks for way to more evenly distribute money to Pennsylvania schools

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania spreads $10 billion in education funds using a ragged method that is prone to political influence, according to legislators and groups who are calling for reform.

“I think we can do better,” said Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Chester. “It’s an arcane, convoluted process.”

The House voted 187-9 this week to create a commission to develop a new way to distribute public education dollars to the state’s 500 school districts. The commission will hold hearings, invite expert testimony and examine formulas used in other states before making a recommendation to the General Assembly.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle concede the current approach is too secretive and prone to inequity.

House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny County, said many members feel now is time “for a fresh look.”

Last year’s formula is a perfect example of what’s wrong, critics say.

The formula was tweaked in secret by lawmakers to include what are essentially 10 earmarks directing dollars to 21 districts, according to an analysis by the Education Law Center, based in Philadelphia.

For example, just one district qualifies for $500,000 from a small school supplement fund, meant to help some of the 155 districts with fewer than 1,600 students, according to the center’s analysis. The money winner is the Penns Valley School District — in the legislative district of Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre County, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Other districts are excluded from receiving that money because of other criteria baked into the funding plan.

Another supplement — for small, rural schools — aims to help districts with fewer than 200 students. Only two meet the criteria, but just one, Austin Area School District, gets the $250,000 supplement.

It’s in the district of Senate President Pro Tem Joseph Scarnati, R-Jefferson County.

“I don’t fault them for getting money for their districts, but the rest of us got left behind,” said Rep. Mark Longietti, D-Mercer County.

Stephen Miskin, a spokesman for Turzai, said “supplements” have been added to each year’s formula “since the dawn of time.” The practice is exactly the kind of thing, Miskin said, that could be solved with scrutiny from the education funding commission.

Pileggi said the formula was developed under the typical legislative process, involving weeks and months of negotiations. Now Pileggi said he is more concerned about having a fair way to distribute all of the state’s $10 billion in public education spending.

The current formula “is not uniform, equitable or transparent,” said Brett Schaeffer, a spokesman for the Education Law Center, which identified about $30 million being funneled through earmarks.

Pileggi said he would support efforts to make the spending process more transparent. It’s too soon to tell if the plan that passed the House will succeed, the Senate majority leader said.

“I want to make sure (creating a funding commission) is a meaningful exercise,” Pileggi said.

John Finnerty reports from the CNHI Harrisburg Bureau for The Meadville Tribune and other Pennsylvania newspapers owned by Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. Email him at jfinnerty@cnhi.com and follow him on Twitter @cnhipa.

1
Text Only
State News
  • PennDOT seeking outside help to make bridge repairs

    State officials are poised to sign a massive deal that will enlist outside help to rebuild and maintain up to 600 bridges, marking the Corbett administration’s latest foray into privatizing key government functions.

    July 24, 2014

  • Gov. Corbett pressures lawmakers in pension fight

    Gov. Tom Corbett is ratcheting up pressure on the Legislature to reform the state’s pension system by focusing on how often school districts use tax increases to offset costs.

    July 22, 2014

  • Experts: Expanding coverage fuels doc shortage

    Pennsylvania’s health care system absorbed more than 300,000 new patients who signed up for insurance through Obamacare’s exchanges. But experts worry the system can’t handle another wave of patients, twice as large, should the state expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

    July 13, 2014

  • Jerry Sandusky’s son tells story to Oprah Winfrey

    Jerry Sandusky’s adult son is speaking out about what he says was sexual abuse by his father.

    July 8, 2014

  • Environmentalists criticize drilling-for-dollars plan in state forests and parks

    Pennsylvania’s just finished budget calls for raising almost $100 million by expanding leases for gas development in state forests — even though leases the state has already issued are far from tapped out.

    July 3, 2014

  • Pennsylvania House approves Republicans' $29.1B budget

    The Legislature voted late Monday to put a looming, $1.5 billion shortfall in its rearview mirror, with a deal to pass a $29.1 billion budget that increases state spending by 1.8 percent but doesn’t hike taxes.

    June 30, 2014

  • Food safety delivery concerns rise with fuel prices

    A few weeks ago state agriculture inspectors forced a trucker to toss 2,000 pounds of food in the garbage after finding the cargo had not been kept at safe temperatures.

    June 15, 2014

  • Tow truckers hope to put brakes on dispatch system

    Some tow truck operators are boycotting a computerized dispatch system put in place by state police, complaining that it’s confusing and leads to longer response times than when troopers and dispatchers manage a call.

    June 1, 2014

  • 'Economics' of state gubernatorial campaigns

    Gov. Tom Corbett’s re-election campaign hailed April’s jobs numbers. Pennsylvania’s unemployment dipped to 5.7 percent — its lowest since 2008 and well below the national average of 6.3 percent.
    “The people of Pennsylvania elected me to Harrisburg on my promise of less taxes and more jobs, and we continue to see that promise ringing tr

    May 25, 2014

  • State's gay marriage ban overturned by judge

    Mike Bartholomew and his longtime partner, Mike Escobar, visited the Northumberland County Courthouse in Sunbury over the years and joked that they were looking for a marriage license.

    May 21, 2014

Business Marquee
AP Video
Crashed Air Algerie Plane Found in Mali Israel Mulls Ceasefire Amid Gaza Offensive In Case of Fire, Oxygen Masks for Pets Mobile App Gives Tour of Battle of Atlanta Sites Anti-violence Advocate Killed, but Not Silenced. Dempsey: Putin May Light Fire and Lose Control Arizona Prison Chief: Execution Wasn't Botched Calif. Police Investigate Peacock Shooting Death Raw: Protesters, Soldiers Clash in West Bank Police: Doctor Who Shot Gunman 'Saved Lives' 'Modern Family' Star on Gay Athletes Coming Out MN Twins Debut Beer Vending Machine DA: Pa. Doctor Fired Back at Hospital Gunman Raw: Iowa Police Dash Cam Shows Wild Chase Obama Seeks Limits on US Company Mergers Abroad Large Family to Share NJ Lottery Winnings U.S. Flights to Israel Resume After Ban Lifted Official: Air Algerie Flight 'probably Crashed' TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans Raw: National Guard Helps Battle WA Wildfires
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Stocks