Renewed push to change education formula; York would see benefits

by Michael Gorsegner | Friday, February 22nd 2019

There is a renewed push at the state capitol to change the way school districts receive state funding. And that could mean a huge shift in where the money is heading.

“It would be huge. Not just for York city which is underfunded but for West York as well as York Suburban,” said Representative Carol Hill-Evans, (D) York.

Estimates show that the York City School District is underfunded by nearly $52 million. That’s the result of the current fair funding formula which went into effect three years ago. A new proposal would change that formula again meaning a big win for schools and taxpayers in this city.

“We are seeing gross under funding from all three school districts,” said Rep. Hill-Evans.

A recent study by education organization, Equity First, shows that the three school districts Representative Hill-Evans covers, York City, York Suburban and West York, are severely underfunded under the current formula. York City is shorted $52 million dollars a year while York Suburban and West York should get about $5.5 million more.

“It puts a burden on the school districts that give our students the type of education they deserve,” Rep. Hill-Evans said.

Just three years ago, the Basic Education Funding Commission established a new formula that would disperse money more fairly to districts in need. Opponents say the problem is that only new money runs through that formula because of a clause called “Hold Harmless” which ensures no district gets less money than the prior budgeted year.

“First of all, it has to be about education so it’s about our students. But it’s also about our taxpayers,” said Rep. Hill-Evans.

If all state money siphons through the fair funding formula, many urban districts would benefit while more rural districts would often suffer.

York City Superintendent Dr. Eric Holmes says the city would use some of this new money to provide tax relief for residents. The District didn’t want to go on-camera but provided this full statement:

“State funding increases have been crucial to the success of the recovery plan that the School District of the City of York has been implementing since 2015. These additional dollars have made it possible for the district to focus on improving academic achievement while balancing its annual budgets without tax increases.

With a healthy fund balance and years of prudent planning, the School District of the City of York is back on solid financial ground.

However, on a per-student basis, the School District of the City of York remains the most under-funded school district in Pennsylvania with a per-student deficit of more than $6,500, or $51.7 million in total.

We appreciate the efforts of all education advocates to implement the fair funding formula and achieve equity for the children of Pennsylvania.”

Representative Chris Rabb from the Philadelphia area is getting set to introduce this bill to require 100 percent of funding go through the funding formula rather than just the nine percent of new money now.

In the past, Governor Wolf has said he supports the measure but questions remain if it will ever make it to his desk.

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