Rapp Criticizes Rendell Education Funding Formula for Inequitably Robbing Rural School Districts to Over-Pay Philadelphia
3/19/2008
Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-Warren) used her annual House Appropriations testimony regarding the governor’s proposed 2008-09 budget as a platform to voice the concerns expressed by parents, teachers, and other local taxpayers regarding the negative fiscal impact that the Rendell administration’s inequitable public school funding formula continues to have on the rural school districts she represents.
 
Rapp, a member of the House Education Committee, began her remarks by providing a brief review of some of the harshest criticisms leveled against the results of the $648,000 taxpayer-funded, educational “costing-out” study that the governor announced on Feb. 22, 2008 that he is now using to determine how much revenue is needed to bring every Pennsylvania public school student’s proficiency levels up to par with state academic standards.   Released in November 2007, this one-size-fits-all study estimates that each of Pennsylvania’s 501 school districts must spend an average of $12,058 per student. Based on current educational funding levels this equates to a $4.8 billion spending increase. 
 
“This study miserably fails to address why some school districts manage to achieve superior marks to others despite significantly less educational funding levels,” said Rapp. “As statewide academic proficiency testing during each year of the Rendell Administration proves, spending more tax dollars does not guarantee more scholars. Notwithstanding, when it comes to any educational funding decision, the biggest question for state lawmakers should be how to fairly and equitably finance public education without bankrupting the people and job creators of this Commonwealth?”
 
To further drive home these initial points as they apply to rural school districts, Rapp used the remainder of her testimony to focus on a letter she recently received from two of her constituents, Mr. and Mrs. Matthew Thompson of Marienville, Forest County:
 
“Our district, Forest Area School District, has been fortunate in the past to have been able to sustain our educational programs and give our children, who live in a very rural area, opportunities that students in large, urban areas have on a daily basis.
 
“Currently there are 1,762 resident parcels and 4,528 seasonal parcels real estate in Forest County.   There is also 123,197 acres of tax exempt land (Allegheny National Forest). Because we have a low enrollment of students, the state’s market value aid ratio formula, makes our district look like a district of wealth.
 
“However, our district’s average family income is about half the average rate for the state.
Our district’s free and reduced lunch average rate for the 2007-08 school year is 48 percent of our students. Forest County is the only county in Pennsylvania that is designated as ‘economically depressed’ by the Appalachian Region. We are not a district of wealth.
 
“The current school funding proposal for the 2008-09 school year presented by Governor Rendell is compounding our revenue shortages. Forest Area School District is only receiving a 1.5 percent increase over last year’s funding. This is equal to a $36,000 increase which does not even cover the rate of inflation.
 
“There is no other school district in Pennsylvania that has our demographics. We have two K-12 buildings which are 30 miles apart. We have transportation costs that far exceed most school districts in Pennsylvania when considering the number of students that are transported to and from school for an average of 4,193 miles a day.
 
“Our teacher-to-student ratio at the high school level is greater than the state average. But we are under the same mandates for curriculum and assessment as any other schools and cannot offer the broad array of electives that the larger schools offer.
 
“Please consider the needs of our children when you are voting on school funding. Governor Rendell is proposing greater percentage increases for larger schools in Pennsylvania. Their needs may not be the same as Forest Area School District, but the children of Forest Area’s School District’s education should be the same and equal to any other education provided to children in Pennsylvania. If our district’s state allocation continues to not pay for our district needs, there will be no equality in education.”
 
“When compared to the multi-million dollar 22.5 percent, 21.2 percent, and 19.7 percent increases respectively that the top three funded school districts, which are all conveniently located in the Philadelphia/Lehigh area, will receive under the governor’s proposed 2008-09 state budget,” summarized Rapp, “what message does this miniscule 1.5 percent funding increase for Forest Area School District send to children living in economically depressed areas?
 
“Put another way, is Governor Rendell trying to say that the value of the education students attending Philadelphia area schools receive, is higher than those attending rural school districts?
 

“As lawmakers we will not be remembered for the problems we identify, but for the problems we solve.   Whether it takes completely eliminating the school property tax, sending the governor’s current public education funding formula back to the drawing board, or a solution yet to be determined, I look forward to working together with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to address the problem of providing equitable and sustainable educational funding for all Pennsylvania children,” added Rapp.

 

 
Rep. Kathy Rapp
65th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
(814) 723-5203
(717) 787-1367
www.reprapp.com
Contact: Ty McCausling
House Republican Public Relations
(717) 772-9979
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 19, 2008