Pennsylvania Lawmakers Eyeing Cost of School Finance Revamp
The following offers highlights of the recent legislative session. The precollegiate enrollment figure is based on fall 2006 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figure for precollegiate education spending does not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
People in the Keystone State have been talking for years about the need to find a better way to pay for schools. In 2007, lawmakers found out how much such a system could cost. A study requested by the legislature said the state would need to spend $2,500 more per child than it now spends to deliver a quality education.
That costing-out study, presented to the legislature in November, will guide lawmakers as they move into this year’s thorny work to design a new funding formula. ("Study Finds Need for Sharp School Spending Hike in Pa.," Nov. 28, 2007.)
Other 2007 legislative education highlights included elements of the $27.2 billion fiscal 2008 budget, which provides $9.4 billion for precollegiate education, a 6.1 percent increase over the previous year’s amount. Early-childhood and high school initiatives long backed by Gov. Edward G. Rendell, a Democrat, saw expansions.
The spending plan includes $75 million to provide preschool for another 11,000 students, and $20 million to preserve and expand full-day kindergarten programs. A program to provide laptop computers to high school students was preserved, and initiatives to boost rigor in high school coursework and expand dual-enrollment options were expanded. Foundation funding, which gives more aid to poorer districts, was also expanded.
One of the most-watched education efforts in Pennsylvania is the state board of education’s bid to require high school students to pass one of three types of competency exam to graduate: a set of end-of-course tests, a state exam, or a a locally designed test. The board was expected to consider the proposal early in 2008.
Vol. 27, Issue 19, Page 14