School funding winners and losers in Pennsylvania’s new $40 billion budget

By: | June 30, 2021

The $40 billion budget that Pennsylvania lawmakers passed last week includes a $300 million increase for K-12 schools and will give boosts of 10% or more to 35 school districts in every corner of the commonwealth.

It’s the result of a negotiation process that saw partisans grapple over what to do with the commonwealth’s $7.3 billion in federal relief funding, in addition to a $2.9 billion surplus thanks to unexpectedly strong tax collections. Democrats wanted to spend more of the funds immediately on things like education, while Republicans insisted on socking billions away for a rainy day. The resulting compromise between the GOP-controlled legislature and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf was modest compared with the governor’s pitch in February, but well above laast year’s pandemic-era flat-funding, as well as the $160 million increase basic education saw in 2019.

It keeps more than $7 billion of that boosted revenue in reserve, but does include a novel approach to education funding.

In the past few years, the state has routed new education funding through a student-weighted formula designed to give more cash to the neediest school districts, taking into account student poverty and English language fluency, but the bulk of education funding has continued to be divided according to badly outdated enrollment numbers and a “hold harmless” policy.

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