Ciresi’s fair funding bill seeks to rectify disparities in PA school districts

HARRISBURG, June 11 – Continuing his fight for improved education across the commonwealth, state Rep. Joe Ciresi introduced a bill Thursday that would ensure a comprehensive path to achieving fair funding for Pennsylvania school districts.

While simultaneously hosting a bipartisan fair funding rally at Perkiomen Valley High School in Collegeville, the second-term Montgomery County representative announced his latest legislation, House Bill 1595, to address the issue.

While Pennsylvania enacted a Fair Funding Formula in 2016, the way the state funds education five years later remains broken, Ciresi said, because “we barely use the fair funding formulates that we created, sending just 11% of basic education and 13.6% of special education dollars through the formulas.”

“We can’t say we’ve ‘fixed’ education funding just by having a fair funding formula, unless we actually use it,” said Ciresi, who serves on the House Education Committee and, before winning election to the PA House in 2018, served 12 years on the Spring-Ford Area School Board, including three years as president and three more as vice president.

“It’s time to commit ourselves to using real data based on actual need to fund education, which is the reason we created these formulas in the first place. H.B. 1595 would put Pennsylvania back on track to fairly distributing education dollars so that we can achieve equitable funding for every student.”

In 2016, the General Assembly established the student-weighted Basic Education Funding formula to direct money to school districts based on certain factors that include student enrollment, student population needs, wealth of the school district, and more. Similarly, the Special Education Funding formula, established in 2014-15, directs state dollars to districts that have the greatest need for additional resources based on the cost of each special education student. Each formula allows districts to have more transparency and predictability on funding.

“However, the overwhelming majority of state BEF and SEF moneys go to ‘hold harmless,’ which allows a school district to receive no less than the same amount of state basic education dollars that it received previously, rather than being distributed fully under the newer and fairer formulas,” Ciresi said. “As such, school districts – especially those with growing enrollments – are forced to rely more heavily on property taxes to fund operations, consequently widening the gap between poor and rich districts.”

Ciresi’s bill, which was immediately referred to the Education Committee, would eliminate “hold harmless” and fully implement both the BEF formula and the SEF formula phased in over five years.

More information is available by contacting Ciresi’s office at 484-200-8265.