The study entitled “America’s Most Financially Disadvantaged School Districts and How They Got that Way” examines funding disparities among several urban, suburban and rural school districts. The aim of the study was to identify financially disadvantaged school systems by using calculations of state and local revenue per pupil, the labor market average and the U.S. poverty rate.
Of note is the difference between “disadvantaged” and “distressed.” Financially disadvantaged districts are those that serve student populations with much greater than average need but do so with much less than average funding. Financially distressed districts in Pennsylvania are typically those that are under state watch by the Pennsylvania Department of Education for many reasons, including finances and/or academic achievement.
However, as is consistent with Mr. Baker’s depiction of financially disadvantaged districts nationwide, his research findings simply mean that Reading School District continues to serve student populations with much greater than average need but do so with much less than average funding. Therefore, the current discussions regarding developing a fair funding formula in Pennsylvania are critical.
It is particularly critical for the children of the Reading School District because fair funding formulas take into account the issues that face districts with high poverty, as well as address student factors like poverty, English proficiency and large enrollment.
I’m encouraged by the recent discussions regarding fair funding because our kids have greater than average needs that require greater than average supports. Fair funding would provide Reading School District the ability to conduct long-term planning and implement sustainable programs over a series of years, promoting academic achievement and access to career and college opportunities.
LATEST NEWS ON FAIR FUNDING FORMULASBERKS EDUCATORS HAIL PROPOSED SCHOOL FUNDING FORMULA
By David Mekeel
Reprinted from Reading Eagle
After a year of research, the Basic Education Funding Commission, a bipartisan group of Legislators and state administrators, unveiled a new funding formula last week. The proposal has already been unanimously approved by the state Senate Education Committee and moved to the full Senate, and is expected to be taken up by the state House Education Committee this week.
The formula is based on student enrollment, and takes into consideration things like poverty levels, charter school enrollment and a district's tax base.
The plan has been greeted favorably by most in the education community, particularly in areas such as Berks County which stand to benefit from the new formula.
Tuesday night, a panel of local educators gathered at the Berks County Intermediate Unit to explain exactly why a new formula is so necessary.
Here's what Dr. Mumin had to say:
The Reading School District has just over 17,000 students, Mumin told the small crowd at the BCIU.
Those students are from 28 different countries and speak 27 languages. More than 93 percent are economically disadvantaged, 18 percent are English language learns and 16 percent receive special education services.
It all adds up to quite a challenge.
Making things more difficult is the district's reliance on state aid, which accounts for about 72 percent of its more than $226 million budget. With more fiscal challenges on the horizon, Reading needs all the help it can get.
"We can't go it alone," Mumin said. "We can't sustain on 72 percent from the state or on local taxes alone. The children of Reading need a funding formula."
Mumin said the district has a clear plan to move forward, but it's reliant on being able to afford to do certain things.
Like making sure schools are safe, both structurally and from crimes and violence. That can be tough in the city, Mumin said, where you may have an elementary school across the street from a bar.
Reading has to deal with a transient population, one where a particular elementary school of 900 students will see 700 moves in and out of the school in a year.
"We know it's inevitable, on the 30th of the month our students will move," he said.
Looking at the state commission's funding formula proposal, Mumin said it seems to be a boon for Reading.