State budget boosts school funding
By Elizabeth Perry
A $1.8 billion increase in school funding passed with Pennsylvania’s budget, July 8.
Included in the budget is a $525 million increase for schools overall through the Fair Funding Formula.
On average Pennsylvania schools will see funding increase by 8%.
Locally, Sto-Rox will see an additional $2.78 million, Carlynton, $456,571; and Cornell $356,334.
Sto-Rox is set to receive $1,473,546 more in Basic Education Funding, a $1,075,030 million Level Up adjustment, a special education increase of $228,729 to a total amount $2,777,305 million more in funding over last year according to Paul Sroka.
Those funds will be used to improve science curriculum for kindergartners through second grade and social studies for kindergarten through second grade.
“In addition, we are adding a Math Coach (K-6) and Reading Specialist (4-6). Any monies remaining will be used to pay down the current negative Fund Balance of $5.9 million (at the end of 2020-21),” Sroka said via email.
Carlynton will receive an additional $370,834 for its education budget and $85,737 for its special education budget. An additional $189,030 is available as block grants that Carlynton can apply for.
The budget Carlynton approved on June 21 was created using estimated increases in the state’s budget. Those estimates were very close to the actual increases, said Superintendent John Kreider.
“We hit it extremely close when you’re looking at numbers like that,” he said, adding that the budget will not need major revisions.
The additional funding was insignificant to its total $15 million budget according to Patrick Berdine, business manager and board secretary for the Cornell School district.
“Basic Education funding increased $97,788 over the prior year and our Special Education funding increased $40,866. We will receive $217,680 for School Safety and Security. This funding will have to be spent on physical safety (infrastructure) and mental health initiatives.
This funding does not benefit our fund balance since what we receive is what will be expended,” Berdine said via email.
The Montour School District did not respond to requests for information before print deadline.
The state budget includes a $225 million increase for Level Up, a program targeted to support the 100 most in-need school districts and a $100 million increase for special education.
According to documents provided by the state, Level Up is a fair funding formula created to reduce funding disparities between richer and poorer students. A district’s share of state funding is tied to its share of the student population.
“However, each school district is not given the same amount of state funding per student; that would be unfair and would ignore the vast differences in local resources available to districts as well as the research-supported evidence that some students require more resources than others to succeed,” according to the Fair Funding Formula-Basic Education: Budget Briefing dated Oct. 16, 2020.
The overall $44.8 billion spending package was passed a week late.
Education funding in Pennsylvania has increased by more than $3.7 billion since 2015.
Currently, a lawsuit is making its way through Philadelphia courts brought by the NAACP, challenging racial bias in the application of school funding.
The suit contends that more money goes to white districts, whereas the Fair Funding Formula, created to combat this problem, is not being applied to all districts in the state. Closing arguments in the suit are scheduled for July 26.
Freelance Writer Sam Bigham contributed to this story.