EDITORIAL: Finally, a winning formula for our schools
- A new school funding formula has been approved in Pennsylvania.
- The new formula should help York County schools get a bigger share of state funding.
- Gov. Tom Wolf signed the new legislation on Thursday.
It may not be the most stimulating topic around.
In fact, many folks in York County may yawn uncontrollably and feel their eyelids drooping at the mere mention of the words “school funding formula.”
So let's try to put this issue in terms that have real meaning to real people.
The Basic Education Funding (BEF) Formula legislation that was signed by Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday should offer financial relief for overburdened taxpayers and additional resources to underfunded school districts all across York County.
There, do we have your attention now?
Of course, it begs the question: What took so long?
After all, Pennsylvania has been operating under a school funding policy put in place in 1991, and it hasn't changed since then. That 25-year-old policy doesn't take into account things such as changes in student population, poverty, local taxes or other factors.
That kind of policy inordinately harmed fast-growing school districts, which includes the vast majority of York County districts. Local districts that must deal with an increasing number of students living in poverty also suffered.
In fact, a couple years back, The York Dispatch crunched some numbers provided from the Pennsylvania Department of Education. That report found that, in terms of per-pupil state funding, York County districts were consistently ranked near the bottom. In fact, out of 500 districts, the York County district receiving the most per-pupil funding was Northeastern at No. 329. York Suburban came in at No. 494.
That was patently unfair.
Something desperately needed to be done, and finally, it is being done.
The new BEF Formula will take into account factors such as student population, poverty, the number of non-English-speaking students and the tax strength of the local community.
That formula should more fairly distribute school funds across Pennsylvania, and it should help most, if not all, of the York County school districts.
All we can say is it's about time.
Local school districts had been getting the short end of the funding stick for decades.
The legislation should also be a living and growing document, since it requires the BEF Formula be upgraded every other year to account for changes in the school districts. Every five years the formula will be reviewed to see how it is working for the state and the districts.
Even better, the formula has the support of folks who are often political foes, such as Republicans and Democrats and school boards and teachers.
This is a move that was long overdue.
It may not be the most scintillating topic, but it should improve the learning environment for our York County students and it may even help put a few extra bucks in your wallet.
That deserves your attention.