Letter to the Editor - Education Funding Formula Creates System of Haves and Have Nots
School boards not necessarily to blame for high taxes, Moul says
To The Editor:
As most of you undoubtedly know by now, this is a tough budget year. Pennsylvania is facing an economic crisis of unprecedented proportions and legislative leaders are miles apart on deciding how to fill what is fast becoming a $3.2 billion budget deficit. Cuts will have to be made, and given the size of our current revenue shortfall, those cuts will not come without substantial pain.
One category of funding that I find particularly worrisome is public education funding. The problem with basic education funding is not a shortage of available funding, but the way in which this funding is disbursed. Pennsylvania spends $5.2 billion annually on basic education funding, but our current funding formula favors certain school districts over others, resulting in wide disparities in the distribution of education funds. Adams County schools are among those being short-changed under the current funding formula to the tune of about $8 million annually!
The level of state funding for public education is not the primary issue. It’s the funding formula that needs to change. Education funding is being held hostage by something known as the “hold harmless” clause. This mandates that school districts will receive no less funding than received year before. The hold harmless clause means that the Philadelphia School District receives $933 million or about $4,500 per student despite the fact that student enrollment is declining. Meanwhile Conewago Valley School District in Adams County, which has grown by 15 percent over the past 10 years, received just $1,810 per student in 2008-09.
The hold harmless clause prevents state education funding from getting to school districts that need it. Growing school districts are paying far more than their fair share and the school boards are bearing the brunt of public discontent. I do not believe the state’s education problems can be solved by simply throwing money at it.   Interestingly, more money does not guarantee higher achievement. Statistics show that students in those districts getting more funding do not perform better than those receiving less. However, the burden on taxpayers is greater in the districts receiving less funding.
I appreciate the challenges that many school boards are facing and I believe that most are fiscally responsible and do a good job in the interest of students and taxpayers. That said, I urge all citizens who do not like proposals put forth by their school boards to get engaged, voice your opinion and circulate petitions if necessary to make a change. You needn’t accept construction of a new school or sports stadium if you believe it is not needed, but you must speak out.
As always, I welcome your input on the state budget, education funding or any other legislative issue. You may contact me at (717) 334-3010 or online at dmoul@pahousegop.com.