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Prepared by The Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
March 2008
• The state has had no funding formula based
on district demographics since 1991.
• The state contributes 36% of the cost of
funding public education on average.
• At this level, Pennsylvania makes the sixth
lowest state contribution to public education in
the nation.
A Built-in Inequality
• Most of the remaining cost of public
education comes from local taxes.
• Thus, in Pennsylvania, the financial health of
the area dictates the financial health of its
• A child who lives in Philadelphia will have
$10,000 per year spent to educate him. Many
schools in the surrounding counties will spend
$5,000 more per child.
Local Effort is Not the Problem:
Reading and Treddyfrin
• Treddyfrin S.D.
• Tax rate--14 mills
• Local tax revenue per
• State per student
• State percent
• Reading S.D.
• Tax rate—29 mills
• Local tax revenue per
• State per student
• State percent
Resource Gap = $6,428
Local Effort is Not the Problem:
Treddyfrin and Philadelphia
• Treddyfrin S.D.
• Tax Rate—14 Mills
• Local tax revenue per
student-- $11,890
• State contribution per
• State contribution
• Philadelphia S.D.
• Tax Rate—19 mills
• Local tax revenue per
• State contribution per
• State contribution
Resource Gap = $4,169
Funding Inequality is a State-wide
• In November a Costing Out Study identified the cost for
each district to prepare all students to meet state proficiency
standards based on actual demographics and students at risk.
• 471 of 501 districts, with 1.6 million students, are spending
less than the adequacy amount.
• The state shortfall is $4.38 billion. Philadelphia’s shortfall is
$4,184 per student, totaling $870 million. Even greater
shortfalls exist in some rural districts and small cities like
Reading, Allentown, Erie and York.
• Spending differences between districts in every county are
at least $1,000 per student and range to over $8,000. In 35
counties the district with the lowest spending had higher
student poverty than the highest spending district.
State Funding is Discriminatory
• Studies show that once the percentage of
low income students in a district is controlled
for, the amount of money distributed by the
state is in inverse proportion to the
percentage of minority students:
--the higher the proportion of
minorities, the less per student the
state contributes to a district.
• All studies show that class size is important
to a good education.
• In Philadelphia, progress was made after
years of reducing class sizes.
• Now the lack of funds has forced increases
in class size: elementary classes are back to
30 children per class.
• Nearly one third of Pennsylvania students
are below grade level in reading or math.
Lititgation Failures in Pennsylvania
• The PA Supreme Court held the state constitutional
requirement for “a thorough and efficient system of public
education” non-justiciable despite the four other states with
the same provision (NJ, Oh, Md and W.Va) reaching a
contrary conclusion. Marrero v. Commonwealth, 559 Pa 14
• In 2002 the US Supreme Court held disparate impact
regulations under Title VI not enforceable in Alexander v.
Sandoval, ending federal school funding litigation.
• The Philadelphia desegregation case is still pending but
the state Supreme Court held a court can not join the State
or City to provide funding for the desegregation remedies it
ordered. 557 Pa 126 (1999).
A Legislative Solution
• Governor Rendell has proposed:
-- A $4 billion adequacy goal based on the
Costing Out Study minus Special Education.
-- A new state formula providing $2 billion plus
inflation over six years, totaling $2.6 billion.
--The state share will be based on local wealth
according to the aid ratio, reduced if local tax
effort is less than the 75th percentile.
-- Accountability limitations on spending and
reporting for new funding in excess of inflation.
Impact of Rendell Proposal
• $291 million in new funding this year without
new taxes. Proposal is backloaded but
Administration states it can be funded with
expected revenue growth. No new taxes.
• Philadelphia would receive $507 million.
• Combined with $1 billion local property tax relief
from gaming revenues.
• Endorsed by Pennsylvania School Funding
Campaign (with four recommended
improvements) as “historic opportunity.”
Continuing Issues
• State-wide
How will districts raise the remaining adequacy gap?
What to do with high spending low performing
• Philadelphia
Human Relations Commission & Public Interest Law
Center of Philadelphia assess District progress in
desegregation case on two criteria: closing the racial
achievement gap and equality in resource allocation.
Both a long way from accomplishment but will be helped
by increased state funding if properly used.
Action Steps
• Pennsylvania Bar Association has appointed a
Committee to consider what steps to take on
school funding reform.
• Philadelphia Bar Association has similar Task
Force chaired by Jim Eisenhower.
• Individuals and organizations can help promote
increased funding through the Pennsylvania
School Funding Campaign:
“Unique Opportunity”
• First real chance to change funding formula in 15 years because
Harrisburg associations of school boards and teachers unions and
community educational advocates working together.
• No tax increases necessary to fund Governor’s proposal, but
enough funds available to fund proposed changes.
• Governor providing leadership.
• Strong support in opinion polls for changing state funding system.
• Communication with General Assembly legislators by the public is
the missing and necessary piece. Contact your legislators. Go to: