Here’s why the school funding issue needs to be hashed out

September 13 – Yesterday began the first in a series of hearings from the Basic Education Funding Commission held in Allentown where some serious funding issues came to light.

The 15-member commission includes three House Democrats, three House Republicans, three Senate Democrats, three Senate Republicans as well as three members of Governor Josh Shapiro’s administration.

The job of the commission is to take a deep dive into the school funding system in the state and create a plan that will lead to legislation to fix the problems. The group will hold hearings in different areas of the state to get an idea of what’s needed in the different districts.

Attorney Clint Barkdoll said, “Two big takeaways. These were eastern Pennsylvania superintendents, one was a lot of testimony about outdated infrastructure in Pennsylvania public schools. This one superintendent said in her district, they have a building that’s almost 150 years old. They’re still using it. They’ve had four days of school cancellations this year due to the heat. There’s no air conditioning in these buildings. That’s the same thing that happened a few weeks ago in the Harrisburg area.”

A number of superintendents pointed out when school funding is discussed, upgrading schools never seems to make it to the table.

Barkdoll said, “The panel, and this is a bi-partisan commission, they all seemed open to hearing that and recognizing that that’s a problem. The other big witness yesterday was this professor from Penn State. He analyzed the Commonwealth Court opinion that said we must redo the school funding formula in Pennsylvania. Based on his analysis, he thinks Pennsylvania needs to kick in another $6.2 billion a year for public school funding. He put up a chart, all 500 districts how short each of them would currently be based on the Commonwealth Court decision.”

To put this in a local perspective, the analysis said that Chambersburg Area School District would need an additional $57 million a year from the state to meet these standards based on the Commonwealth Court decision.

Waynesboro Area School District would need $26.5 million a year.

Greencastle-Antrim School District would need another $14.7 million.

Tuscarora School District would need an additional $5.3 million a year.

Fannett Metal School District would need $2.8 million.

Barkdoll said, “It’s unlikely any of this comes to fruition. These are aspirational ideals. But the panel hearing this seemed very interested in what this professor was saying. So we’ll continue to watch that. They’re touring the state.”