Governor Tom Wolf releases his state budget proposal Tuesday, and the Campaign for Fair Education Funding has a few suggestions.
Several Education watchdog groups unveiled the plan Thursday.
“The mission of the campaign is really to focus on this need for an equitable system of funding in Pennsylvania that has enough resources in it to be sure every child has an equal chance to meet our standards,” Joan Benso, PA Partnerships for Children president and CEO, said. Benso's group is just one of several organizations working on the campaign.
Benso said various groups ranging from traditional education associations and children’s advocates to business leaders and faith-based organizations met in order to create a funding formula they believe is fair.
Benso said their formula starts with a base cost for each student, which they calculated to be slightly more than $7,200 per year. Pennsylvania spent $13,466 per student in 2011 according to the United States Census Bureau.
“So what do we think is the appropriate expenditure per child before any additional needs,” Benso said. “This would not include special education. This would be a base cost simply focused on educating a typical child to meet our standards.”
She said the formula also takes into account several “student factors” such as how many children are living in poverty, are learning English, are homeless or are in foster care, as well as “school district factors” such as local tax support, the school district’s size and charter enrollment.
When all of the calculations are combined, the proposed formula calls for approximately $3.6 billion in new state investments in public education over six to eight years.
“This isn’t only about that number and growing the state share of investment over the coming years,” Benso said. “It’s also about being sure that we’re using the money well, we’re good stewards of it and we’re being accountable for how we use it."
The 2014-15 Pennsylvania budget included more than $5 billion for basic education.
She said they briefed the administration and all four legislative caucuses before releasing the campaign and proposed formula Thursday. The Basic Education Funding Commission, which was formed by the state legislature in June of 2014, is set to release its proposal for an education funding formula in June.
Benso said the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children is putting the proposal out as a “stake in the ground, not a line in the sand.”
“We’re saying to the general assembly, the governor and the Basic Ed Commission that as you continue this work this winter and spring through the commission and through the budget to more rationally fund Pennsylvania’s schools that there are some critical elements that you cannot ignore, and you need to consider,” Benso said.