Education Commission Proposes Smarter, Student-Based Spending

Education Commission Proposes Smarter,
Student-Based Spending

Commission Tailors Funding to Student Need, Rejects Broken Status-Quo

Good afternoon,

The Commonwealth Foundation has long advocated for an education funding formula based on student enrollment and student need. This afternoon, the Basic Education Funding Commission released a report that aligns with those objectives. 

“This is a promising set of recommendations,” commented James Paul, senior policy analyst for the Commonwealth Foundation. “Members of the commission are making a concerted effort to fund students—not systems, districts, or buildings. This is a sharp departure from the status quo and much-needed step in the right direction.”

The commission proposes:

  • Distributing funds based on a district’s average enrollment over a three year period, with additional weights provided for low-income students and English-language learners
  • Accounting for a district’s median household income and its ability to raise local revenue to determine funding levels

This approach is similar to the goals outlined by the Commonwealth Foundation in December testimony to the commission.

“Attention now turns to the state House and state Senate, which will be tasked with passing legislation that implements the commission’s recommendations,” said Paul. “How lawmakers choose to address the state’s problematic ‘hold harmless’ provision will be crucial.”

Hold harmless guarantees each school district receives no fewer state education dollars than it received the previous year—regardless of changes in district enrollment. While the policy ostensibly exists to prevent school districts from being harmed by reduced funding, it has, in fact, brought real harm and inequity to hundreds of districts across the commonwealth.

“If the General Assembly only applies the new formula to new revenue, that will be disappointing,” noted Paul. “The state must begin to phase out ‘hold harmless’ once and for all. The sooner the entire Basic Education line item is distributed based on a student-based formula, the better off Pennsylvania’s students will be.”

“I also have concerns about the ‘tax effort capacity index,’ and the charter schools adjustment. But overall, the proposed formula would be a marked improvement over the status quo.”

See Commonwealth Foundation’s recent research for more background on education spending in Pennsylvania:

James Paul is available for comment today. Please contact me to schedule an interview.


John Bouder
Senior Communications Officer
Commonwealth Foundation
[email protected]