Special Education Funding Reform Commission
17, 201- Hanson Quickel
Special Education Formula Funding Commission recommended (December 11) that
the General Assembly adopt a new formula for distributing state funding for
special education in excess of 2010-11 levels, according to co-chairs of the
commission Senate Majority Whip Pat Browne and Representative Bernie O’Neill.
formula will include factors reflecting students’ needs based on three cost
categories – low (category 1), moderate (category 2) and high (category 3). The
formula will also include factors reflecting community differences such as
market value/personal income aid ratio, equalized millage rate and small and
rural school districts.
commission’s goals also included creating a formula that did not place undue
burdens of administrative reporting on state or local education agencies while
seeking to improve accuracy in distributing limited state resources. In
addition, the formula does not create incentives to over-identify students with
current formula does not effectively match the needs of Pennsylvania students
with the cost of providing those services. The “census formula” paid school
districts based on calculations assuming that 15 percent of all students have
mild disabilities and one percent have severe disabilities. Since 2008-09,
Pennsylvania has not increased special education funding, effectively ending
the use of a funding formula.
formula will be a great improvement over the current system, which is
ineffective in ensuring that state money is adequately and equitability being
distributed,” Senator Browne said. “This formula will take into account the
actual number of students needing specialized education services and base the
funding for those students on the degree to which they need those services.”
270,000 children – or one out of every 6.5 students – receive special education
services in Pennsylvania public schools. In schools with adequate resources,
academic achievement for children with disabilities averages close to the
results for all students. State funding for special education is slightly less
than $1 billion a year.
are many factors that have an impact on the financial stability of special
education programs in our schools,” Representative O’Neill said. “The
commission has gathered a wealth of valuable feedback and data from school
districts, parents and special education organizations, and we took a look at
how other states drive out funding for special education. All of this information has allowed us to
develop a funding structure based on the actual costs involved in providing
special needs students with the resources they need to succeed.”
commission also determined that the special education reimbursements system for
charter schools and cyber charter schools should receive similar reforms.
15-member commission, created through Act 3 of 2013 (sponsored by Senator
Browne and Representative O’Neill), was charged with developing a system for
allocating any new state special education funding in a manner that recognizes
the actual number of physically- and mentally-challenged students in a school
and the various levels of their need for services.
members of the commission include: Senators Mike Folmer; Andrew Dinniman; James
Brewster; Ted Erickson; and, Judith Schwank; Representatives Paul Clymer; James
Roebuck; Mark Longietti; Michael Peifer; and, Mike Sturla; Charles Zogby,
Secretary of the Budget; Carolyn Dumaresq, Acting Secretary of Education; and,
Rita Perez, Acting Deputy Secretary of Education.
commission held seven public hearings throughout the state in the summer and
fall of this year. It listened to testimony from more than 50 witnesses ranging
from students to parents to educators to experts on special education.
would like to thank our colleagues who logged many hours listening to testimony
and pouring through pages of data and information,” Senator Browne and
Representative O’Neill said. “The commission was tasked with ensuring that
every school district receives the funding required to provide a proper
education to children with special needs and we believe we have laid out a plan
that succeeds in doing that.
would also like to thank everyone who testified or contacted the commission
with information that helped us to come to this important conclusion and
vision. It is clear there are many people across the state that have made
reforming special education funding a priority and wanted to help.”
information on the report recommended by the commission, visit the Special
Education Funding Formula Commission’s website which is on Senator Browne’s
homepage at www.senatorbrowne.com.