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Report Finds PA School Funding Inadequate, Unfair

Pennsylvania schools with the fewest white students receive $2,000 a year less per pupil, according to a new report. (lourdesnique/Pixabay)
Pennsylvania schools with the fewest white students receive $2,000 a year less per pupil, according to a new report. (lourdesnique/Pixabay)
March 15, 2017

PHILADELPHIA – Years of underfunding Pennsylvania's public schools has led to inequalities affecting low-income districts and communities of color, according to a new report.

The Education Law Center report, entitled "Money Matters in Education Justice," says the Keystone State ranks 46th in the nation for state share of revenue for public schools. And Pennsylvania is one of only 14 states with a regressive funding system, giving the fewest resources to the poorest schools with the highest needs.

According to Deborah Gordon Klehr, the Education Law Center executive director, that has led to glaring racial disparities in education funding.

"Schools with large populations of students of color receive less per-pupil funding overall than schools with a larger white-student population, and they're also shouldering higher local tax burdens," she said.

The report cites research showing that schools with the fewest white students receive almost $2,000 a year less per pupil.

Last year, the state adopted a fair-funding formula designed distribute state education dollars more equitably. But, as Klehr points out, that formula only applies to new state spending.

"Of the $5.9 billion that the state spends on basic education funding, only about 6 percent of that is sent through the formula," she added.

The Education Law Center says children in many communities are being shortchanged and that to address the inequities, the state needs to significantly increase school funding overall.

Klehr notes that the Pennsylvania Constitution guarantees all children will have access to a "thorough and efficient" system of public education.

"Despite this constitutional mandate, many children - especially children of color and children in low-income communities - are not given the necessary educational tools for success," she explained.

Data from the Pennsylvania Department Education and other studies estimate the Commonwealth needs to increase education spending by between $3 billion and $4.5 billion a year.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA