Thursday, 09 September 2021 15:37

Pennsylvania’s State Budget & Local School District Funding

Editor's Note:
Rosemary Brown has been doing a series on local school budgets and funding, the first two were for other school districts in our area so I didn't include them.  Last week she sent out details about Pocono Mountain School district so here they are:

Weekly Series (3 of 5)
Education quality and funding continues to be a priority of mine, as well as creating an environment and policies that help reduce the rate of our school property tax bills.

For a deeper understanding of our education funding locally, we will review school district funding within the 189th Legislative District. (Including East Stroudsburg, Stroudsburg, Pleasant Valley, Pocono Mountain and Delaware Valley school districts). Over the last 10 years in my position as your state representative, we have made tremendous progress in improving state funding to our school districts, and although it is not perfect, the progress has been strong, which you will see.

Our annual Pennsylvania state budget of course, includes the critical piece of K-12 education funding, which funds our 500 school districts across Pennsylvania. This past 2021-22 budget included $7.067 billion in overall K-12 education funding, which was a $300 million increase in funding over last year. We also increased special education funding to $1.24 billion, a $50 million increase over last year. In addition, $511 million was allocated for the school employee’s Social Security portion, which must be used for school employee’s Social Security payments.

This year, districts also received dollars from the federal government to aid in learning loss and assisting in COVID-19 health protections as well. Basically, the federal government created the Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund as a part of the CARES Act in May 2020 and funded the pot again with CRRSA and ARPA legislation. A smaller pot of money, the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) fund was also made available. Allocations from these dollars will be listed below.

I am a firm believer in building people to be their best self and utilizing government on a limited basis (in times of dire need, job loss, devastation, etc.) and ensuring that strong education and opportunities are created is extremely important.

Let us do a quick review of how K-12 schools are currently funded. Schools are funded by the federal government, state government, and local school district residents and businesses through the local school tax property bill. Most dollars come from the state and local level. Local school boards utilize these dollars and determine their financial needs based on mandates (most are from the federal government), local educational priorities, salaries, extracurricular activities, safety and more to determine their school district budget. Therefore, your school property tax bill is determined by your local school district and the current ability to raise and lower this rate is determined by your school board members, who are elected by the people of that school district.

One of the reasons our local state funding has improved is from the work I contributed on the basic education Fair Funding Formula. Originally, I strongly supported authorizing legislation (Act 51), that created the Basic Education Fair Funding Commission. The commission was comprised of six Republicans and six Democrats, charged to offer recommendations for a new distribution funding formula for K-12 education dollars. The legislation forming the commission was signed into law by Gov. Tom Corbett. I then advocated and brought the commission to the East Stroudsburg School District to hear testimony to include in their report and recommendations. The report recommendations were released, and a new Basic Education Funding formula was implemented for any new dollars or increased funding for K-12 education. While I continue to advocate for all the funding/dollars to be distributed through this formula, this has been a tremendous accomplishment which has helped our local school districts and will continue to grow.

Let’s continue our review series:

Pocono Mountain Area School District (PMSD):

Total State Education Funding For PMSD:
2009-10: $46,659,463
2019-20: $67,070,494
This is a 44% increase of state funding to PMSD

Total State Funding Per Student:
PMSD 2009-10: $3,984
PMSD 2019-20: $7,210
This is a 81% increase of state funding per student to PMSD
The 2019-20 statewide average of per student funding was $7,068 (we are now higher than the average, when in 2009-10 were lower than average).

Total Special Education Funding:
PMSD 2009-10: $4,975,285
PMSD 2019-20: $6,220,845
This is a 25% increase of special education funding at PMSD

PMSD Expenses Per Student:
2009-10: $16,521 per student
2019-20: $22,872 per student
This is a 38% increase of district spending per student

PMSD Student Enrollment:
2009-10: 11,711 students
2019-20: 9,302 students
This is a 21% decrease of enrollment

PMSD District Expenses:
2009-10: $193,479,717
2019-20: $212,757,292
This is an 10% increase of district expenses

PMSD Funding Received Through Federal COVID Response:
2020-21 CARES Elementary & Secondary Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund: $1,983,113
2021-21 School Health & Safety Grants (CARES & ESSER Funds): $748,237
Total Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Funding: $669,599
CRRSA Act (ESSER II): $9,799,491
American Rescue Plan, ESSER III & Required Set Asides: $20,120,173
Total Federal Relief Dollars: $33,320,613

For more detailed information on Pocono Mountain School District’s Budget, click here.