Corbett calls Pa. education funding formula unfair

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Gov. Tom Corbett has expressed support for a school funding formula that would be fair to all of Pennsylvania’s schools. He made his remarks on Jan. 22 in Harrisburg while offering a preview of his budget proposal that called for increased funding for rape crisis and domestic violence programs.

“Let’s get a true, fair funding system of all the schools of Pennsylvania, not for one district or another,” the first-term Republican said. “It’s not fair right now, OK? So we need to address that.”

Responding to a request for comment, Pennsylvania Department of Education spokesman Tim Eller stated in an email message, “Gov. Corbett cares about all students across Pennsylvania and believes that every Pennsylvania student, regardless of zip code, background or family income, deserves access to a high-quality public education.

“The funding formula is outdated and needs to be fully reviewed due to the changing demographics of Pennsylvania’s public schools. The governor supports a funding commission to comprehensively review what is the most appropriate way to distribute funding to public schools,” Eller stated.

A bill that commissions a panel to develop a formula to distribute money for K-12 education was approved by the House last week, and similar legislation is pending in the Senate.

In calling for changes to the method used to fund Pennsylvania’s public schools, Corbett, who is seeking re-election in November’s general election, took issue with what he sees as a flaw in the state budgeting process during a news conference at the Capitol, according to the Associated Press.

“The state is looked at as a source of revenue on a regular basis. Yet the state has no role in negotiating how the money is going to be spent. I have a little problem with that, but I don’t know that we’re ever going to change that,” said Corbett, who laid out his spending blueprint for the 2014-15 fiscal year.

Corbett has weathered sharp criticism over the issue of funding public education since taking office in 2011, but especially as students, parents and school feel the impact of funding cuts that have forced cutbacks in school staff and athletics, arts, music and libraries.

He had scheduled a visit to Central High School in the Olney section last week to announce awards recognizing three public schools for academic excellence.

About an hour before the event was supposed to start, the venue was changed to his regional office in The Bellevue Building in Center City. He was criticized for ducking the crowd of most outspoken critics, who called him cowardly for being a no-show. It would have been the governor’s first visit to a Philadelphia public school.

“I did not skip out,” Corbett said. “We chose not to give a number of people a stage for their own purposes, to the distraction of the schoolwork of the students in that building that day.”

In the fall, Corbett also was vilified for withholding $45 million in forgiven federal debt from schools until school leaders provided evidence of meaningful education reform had taken place. State lawmakers representing Philadelphia complained that the school district had presented evidence that it had made significant strides in improving educational programming and restoring fiscal stability but the state was slow in releasing the funds.

According to Eller and watchdog group, Media Trackers, Corbett has been unfairly criticized for cuts in education funding. According to Media Trackers, decreases in education funding were tied to money provided through a federal stimulus program, which ended during the 2010-11 academic year.

“Pennsylvania’s public schools lost $1.1 billion in federal funding,” Eller stated in an emailed response. “Unfortunately and incorrectly, many have said that this is a result of Gov. Corbett’s budgets.”

“Since Gov. Corbett took office, state support of public schools has increased $1.17 billion [14 percent],” according to Eller, who also stated the current state budget provides more than $9.75 billion to Pennsylvania’s public schools, the highest amount in the state’s history.

On Thursday, Corbett awarded $3.9 million in funding for school resource officers and school police officers to 81 schools and municipalities across the state. Maritime Academy Charter School will receive a $40,000 award. Republican Sen. Joe Scarnati, who authored the legislation that was signed into law, joined Corbett for the announcement.

Contact staff writer Wilford Shamlin III at (215) 893-5742 or wshamlin@phillytrib.com.

http://www.phillytrib.com/newsarticles/corbett-calls-pa-education-funding-formula-unfair.html

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