HARRISBURG – The Special Education Funding Commission, which was originally established in Act 3 of 2012 to review and make recommendations regarding special education funding, is being reconstituted to review the current formula that determines special education payments to school districts in Pennsylvania, according to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Browne (R-Lehigh), House Education Committee Chairman Curt Sonney (R-Erie) and Education Secretary Pedro Rivera.
The reconstituted Special Education Funding Commission, established under Act 16 or 2019, held its organizational meeting Tuesday, Aug. 27, during which it elected Browne, Sonney and Rivera to co-chair the commission.
“We expect to take a comprehensive look at the current formula used to distribute state funding to school districts for special education and determine if the formula and the factors used are meeting their intended goals,” Browne said. “I look forward to hearing testimony on special education and the current formula from school districts and experts in the community and the commission members to ensure Pennsylvania is using the correct formula factors in distributing state special education dollars to students in need of financial support.”
The current special education funding formula, one of the original commission’s recommendations in 2013, was enacted and took effect for the 2014-15 fiscal year. The formula directs dollars to school districts that have the greatest need for additional resources based upon the cost of each special education student.
“Educating our students to be successful both personally and professionally is by far one of the most important tasks we face as a Commonwealth,” Sonney said. “As lawmakers we have a responsibility to ensure we are fairly funding educational options for all of our students so that we are meeting their specific needs and preparing them to be future parents, workers and community leaders. The improvements we made to the special education funding formula in 2013 most certainly have made a difference for those students and our schools. However, it is vital that we continue to review what’s working, and what isn’t working, to ensure we fulfill our obligations to all students.”
“The special education funding formula is a critical component in helping school districts address the specific needs of this student population,” said Matt Stem, Department of Education Deputy Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education. “It’s important to review the current formula to ensure that funding is being allocated to schools in such a way that they may provide their students with the resources and education they deserve.”
Other senators serving on the commission include Chairman of the Senate Education Committee Wayne Langerholc (R-Bedford/Cambria/Clearfield), Minority Chairman of the Senate Education Committee Andrew Dinniman (D-Chester), as well as Sens. Maria Collett (D-Bucks/Montgomery), Pam Iovino (D-Allegheny/Washington) and Scott Martin (R-Lancaster).
Other state representatives serving on the commission include the Minority Chairman of the House Education Committee James Roebuck (D-Philadelphia), as well as Reps. George Dunbar (R-Westmoreland), Mark Longietti (D-Mercer), Mike Sturla (D-Lancaster) and Jesse Topper (R-Bedford/Franklin/Fulton).
Representing the Wolf Administration on the commission in addition to Rivera are Matt Stem, Deputy Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, and Greg Thall, Esq., Special Assistant to the Budget Secretary.
The original Special Education Funding Commission, which was co-chaired by Browne and retired Rep. Bernie O’Neill, held seven meetings throughout the state over seven months and heard testimony from more than 50 witnesses before making a recommendation in December of 2013 to the General Assembly for the creation of a new special education funding formula. Browne also chaired the Basic Education Funding Commission and the Public School Building Construction and Reconstruction (PlanCON) Advisory Committee, both of which resulted in comprehensive changes to the formulas used by Pennsylvania to distribute state dollars for basic education and school facility needs.
The commission expects to meet throughout the fall to hear testimony and develop a report. The commission is required to issue its report to the General Assembly no later than Nov. 30.
Representative Curt Sonney
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
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