State budget update

Standing with Rep. Chris Rabb of Philadelphia following a fair funding rally last year in the Capitol Rotunda.

The first piece of our budget puzzle has fallen into place. Gov. Wolf unveiled his proposed state budget on Tuesday, including his proposals for education funding. For the School District of Lancaster, the results are mixed.

First, the good news. The governor’s proposed budget provides savings to school districts by setting charter payments for cyber schools and special education funding closer to actual costs. The special education tuition formula also creates a perverse incentive for charter schools to over–identify children for special education services that cost taxpayers.

Together, we anticipate these reforms could save us $1.2 million next year, significant resources we can use to close our projected $10 million deficit. This proposal is an excellent example of commonsense reforms that can help financially distressed school districts without raising taxes or finding new revenues.

Which leads me to the bad news. The governor’s proposal includes only a 1 percent increase in our basic education funding subsidy, or $645,000. We commend the governor for calling for an increase in basic education funding statewide, but for us, that rate of increase is not nearly enough to meet expenses. It still leaves our school board facing possibly painful financial decisions this spring.

Most importantly, we are still underfunded by $20 million, according to the state’s basic education funding formula. Only about 16 percent of our subsidy is allocated by the formula. We again call on the Legislature to speed up full implementation of the formula to help our struggling school districts.

We look forward to meeting with our local representatives in the coming months to advocate on behalf of Lancaster students and taxpayers. We encourage all SDoL families, taxpayers and staff to ask our lawmakers to support these reforms.