Mar. 23, 2020

By Rep. Steve Mentzer (R-Lititz)
In 2014 the legislature passed Act 51. This was passed on the direction of a bipartisan, bicameral commission established by the legislature to deal with the inequities in the current education funding formula. Lancaster County was represented on that Commission by then- Senator Smucker and Representative Sturla. They came up with an excellent compromise on a formula that would be more equitable for every school district across the state.

This was welcome news for high growth areas like Lancaster County. The compromise in the new formula would be applied to all increases in State funding for K-12 and has been applied to increases every year since 2016.

Last week, I wrote about Hold Harmless and its adverse effect on municipalities that had increases in student populations, Unfortunately, years of this policy left many school districts dependent on larger funding from the State.

Hold harmless guarantees each school district receives no fewer state education dollars than it received the previous year—regardless of changes in district enrollment. This may sound appealing in theory, but it is actually quite problematic in practice. While the policy was instituted to prevent school districts from being harmed by reduced funding, it has resulted in severe inequity to hundreds of school districts.

For example, during the 2012-13 school year, state revenue per student in Pennsylvania's 20 fastest-growing districts was slightly more than $3,000. In contrast, state revenue per student among those districts with the largest decreases in enrollment was nearly $10,000. This means school districts with declining enrollment received more than three times the state funding per student than growing districts.

So, if the new formula were applied to all K-12 funding, instead of just the increases in funding, many school districts would immediately lose millions in funding. In fact, if the new funding formula were applied universally, 350 of Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts would lose funding.

The result is that the elected officials representing those 350 school districts would logically oppose any policy where their municipalities are negatively affected. As you can imagine, they are unwilling to vote to apply the new funding formula to all current K-12 State Funding.

As your representative, I will continue to fight for what is right for my district and what is fair for the entire state. Next week we will take a look at some of the proposals to reduce or eliminate school property tax.