School officials are wiping perspiration from their brows following the announcement that state funding will increase for this year.
There was an increase in funding for basic, early childhood, and special education.
Armstrong School District will receive $46,781,629 (3.1% increase); Apollo-Ridge $12,079,541 (2.1% increase); Freeport $11,243,830 (3.1% increase; and Leechburg (2.3% increase).
State Representative Jeff Pyle (R-60th District) pointed out in his recent newsletter that Governor Tom Wolf has proposed that all future basic education funding go through a formula which legislators voted into law in 2016. This formula could cut state funding to rural schools by more than 50%.
State Representative Jesse Topper (R-78th District) has been very vocal within the Republican leadership in opposing Governor Wolf’s plan.
“When we passed the new funding formula, it said that all the new dollars allocated to education would go through the new funding formula. But there would be a baseline that you could not go under that. That was done to provide security for many rural districts. If funding would go lower than that baseline, we would be talking about closing many rural schools. The Governor has proposed to eliminate that baseline and wants all the money would go through this new system.”
For Armstrong School District, it could mean a decrease in funding by as much as 11% in the future. Topper said it would leave 362 school districts in 44 counties with less funding.
“That’s about $2 billion. For many of these small rural school districts, the tax base isn’t there. You could raise taxes to the maximum allowed by law and still not cover the losses. Schools at the minimum would have staffing cuts, and at the most could go bankrupt.”
The larger populated school districts will benefit. Philadelphia schools would receive an additional $339 million annually if all the basic education money would go through the formula. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh could lose over $70 million.
“You really have to look at who is pushing for this,” Topper said. “The funding formula makes sense moving forward because some of the areas of the state are growing while others are not. However, the idea of making this retroactive would be disastrous. And to try to implement that immediately, I don’t see how you could reasonably do it and not have schools in Armstrong and this part of the state actually close.”