DeLissio outlines education-funding priorities

HARRISBURG, July 17 – State Rep. Pamela A. DeLissio, D-Montgomery/Phila., released the following statement today regarding the calls to restore education funding and enact a fair school funding formula.

“I believe that it is the responsibility of the commonwealth to ensure that every student has access to a quality, basic public education regardless of where they reside. To make that happen, we need to fundamentally change how public schools are funded.

“There is no doubt that the current system is not fair to students or taxpayers. The 194th Legislative District includes both the Philadelphia and Lower Merion School Districts. The disparity in the student spend numbers between the two districts is exactly why a ‘fair funding formula’ needs to be implemented. The instructional costs per student are $9,261 and $15,073 respectively.

“As importantly, adequate funding must go hand in hand with a new formula.

“In 2014, a bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission of the Pennsylvania General Assembly was convened and the commission held 15 hearings across the commonwealth.

“The commission’s report and recommendation for a new funding formula were issued on June 18. The proposed funding formula represents a significant component of meeting the state constitution’s requirement that Pennsylvania provide a thorough and efficient system of public education.

“Pennsylvania's Constitution makes clear that the state – not local school boards and local taxpayers – has the ultimate responsibility for providing a thorough and efficient system of education for every student.

“For the first time, the new formula takes into account important factors such as charter schools and a school district's local tax base and taxing capacity. It also accounts for enrollment levels and both poverty level and poverty concentration, since we know it costs more to educate students who live in severe poverty.

“However, while the proposed formula is a significant step toward fairly funding our schools, it does not erase the past or solve the immediate problem of insufficient funding. It's also important to restore the previous four years devastating cuts to public education – as proposed in Governor Tom Wolf’s budget for 2015-16.

“A combination of restored education funding cuts and the fair funding formula recommended by the Basic Education Funding Commission can provide significant progress in moving our state toward finally meeting that responsibility.

“The Basic Education Funding Commission’s proposed formula moves Pennsylvania toward finally providing predictable and equitable funding for school districts across the commonwealth. The proposed formula is a stellar example of what is possible when Democrats and Republicans work together.

“The commission’s task was to develop a fair formula to provide basic education funding. It will be up to the legislature, working with the governor, to determine how it will be implemented. My commitment is to work toward getting the necessary legislation in place.”