A commission charged with examining the state’s basic education funding formula heard from a number of education officials at an Allegheny County hearing this week.
“The message is clear that we need to come up, as a commission, with a fair, equitable and transparent way to distribute education investment throughout the commonwealth,” said Sen. Matt Smith (D-Allegheny/Washington), one of 15 commission members.
The hearing at the Community College of Allegheny County West Hills Center in Oakdale featured Thomas Ralston, superintendent of Avonworth School District and Patrick O'Toole, superintendent of Upper St. Clair School District.
“The lack of cogent school funding formula in Pennsylvania creates inequalities and unfairness, and I am hopeful that the statewide commission will help to bring about much needed change,” said O’Toole.
Also testifying were Linda Hippert, executive director of Allegheny Intermediate Unit; Patrick Dowd, executive director of Allies for Children; and Cheryl Kleiman, with the Education Law Center, Pittsburgh Office.
According to the Education Law Center, Pennsylvania is one of only three states that creates budgets without using a statewide education funding formula. Smith said that is a problem.
“To make sure we’re both addressing the opportunity gaps that exist, that every child has the same opportunity to succeed, as well as the achievement gaps that exist right now that are really significant, particularly in certain parts of Pennsylvania where students are not reaching the same level of achievement as other students and a big reason why is they don’t have the same opportunity through funding as other students,” Smith said.
The Basic Education Funding Commission studies education funding in Pennsylvania and will make recommendations to the General Assembly on a funding formula. This hearing was one of several that will be held on the topic statewide, the next will be Nov. 6 in Lancaster County.