EPLC Education Notebook
Friday, April 17, 2009
Content in this edition:
The EPLC Education Notebook (current and past editions) also is available by visiting the EPLC website at www.eplc.org/ednotebook.html.
PENNSYLVANIA SCHOOL FUNDING CAMPAIGN
Last summer the General Assembly took the historic step of adopting a fair and predictable school funding formula and making the first year installment on a six-year schedule to reach full funding. This formula, when fully funded, will give every student a fair chance to succeed in school. The downturn in the economy and its impact on state revenue has threatened Pennsylvania’s ability to stay on schedule to fund this new equity and adequacy formula. Fortunately, federal stimulus funds are now available so that Pennsylvania can maintain its commitment to invest in education through the new formula.
The federal stimulus, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), provides Pennsylvania with $2.6 billion in funds for education over the next two years. Of this amount, $1.6 billion comes from the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, which must be used to support basic education or restore cuts in higher education ($44 million). The K-12 portion of the Stabilization Fund can be distributed only by the state’s basic education formula or, if not, then by default, by the federal Title I formula. These stimulus dollars give the General Assembly the ability to fund the basic education formula over the next two years while the state economy and state revenues recover, thus enabling Pennsylvania to meet its statutory target for basic education funding in the 2009-10 fiscal year and keeping us on schedule to fully fund the formula by 2013-14.
Legislators in some states are considering cutting education funding and then using federal stabilization funds to replace state funds. If the Pennsylvania General Assembly moves in that direction, it will stall progress on phasing in our first fair and predictable school funding formula in almost two decades.
Appropriating $418 million of the federal stimulus dollars to increase basic education funding now will enable Pennsylvania to avoid cuts in state support for school districts and reduce the necessity for local tax increases to maintain current levels of education for students. The Campaign is concerned that some legislative leaders are sending messages to school superintendents that will result in unnecessary local tax increases out of fear that the legislature will not appropriate these funds to increase school funding.
The Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign urges the General Assembly to act expeditiously to assure local officials that the Commonwealth will use $418 million in federal stabilization funds in 2009-10 to increase basic education funding over current year levels.
The Education Policy and Leadership Center serves as a member of the Steering Committee of the Pennsylvania School Funding Campaign and will keep you informed about legislative developments in the coming weeks. To learn more about our efforts and to endorse the Campaign, visit the Campaign web site at www.paschoolfunding.org.
Governor Ed Rendell
Nearly $770 million in state gaming revenue will be available for homeowner property tax relief in 2009. Budget Secretary Mary Soderberg certified the amount available in the state’s Property Tax Relief Fund on April 15, as required by the 2006 Taxpayer Relief Act which authorized gaming in Pennsylvania to fund school property tax relief. Governor Ed Rendell said approximately 110,000 senior citizens will pay no school property taxes again this year due to the program, while nearly 580,000 seniors will receive additional relief through the state’s Property Tax/Rent Rebate program, which also was expanded by the 2006 Taxpayer Relief Act. According to Rendell, nearly 2.7 million households in Pennsylvania saw their property taxes reduced in 2008 because of gaming revenue.
Rendell also said that more than three in four school districts already have reported that they will keep property taxes at or below the rate of inflation in 2009. The state’s Taxpayer Relief Act limits local school tax increases to an inflationary index, unless a larger increase is approved by voters. Rendell further stressed that it is important the General Assembly target federal stimulus funds for education as the federal law intends to further avoid property tax increases and maintain the quality of our schools.
The House Education Committee met in Philadelphia on Wednesday for a public hearing on STEM education’s regional impact on business, industry, higher education access. For more information, contact the office of Committee Chair James Roebuck at (717) 783-1000.
House Republican Policy Committee
The House Republican Policy Committee met in Horsham on Tuesday for a public hearing on food allergy reaction management in public schools. For more information, contact the office of Policy Committee Chairman Stan Saylor at (717) 783-6426.
House Democratic Policy Committee
The House Democratic Policy Committee met in Philadelphia on Thursday for a public hearing on higher education as an industry. For more information, contact the office of Policy Committee Chairman Mike Sturla at (717) 787-3555.
RESEARCH AND REPORTS
EPLC is accepting applications for its Spring 2009 Parent and Community Leadership Institute in Philadelphia. The Institute is a program for people who want to know more about education policy issues and want to join a network of community leaders who are able to influence important statewide and local education policies. The free, 12-hour program will be presented over four evening sessions. For program details and to register online, see www.eplc.org/PCLI.html.
For information on these and other upcoming events, see www.eplc.org/calendar.html.