25 Jun House PassesTurla Special Education Funding Bill (PA)

June 25, 2010

By: States News Service
Source: States News Service

The following information was released by Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Democratic Caucus:

State Rep. Mike Sturla’s bill that would institute an equitable formula to allocate special education funding for Pennsylvania schools cleared a major hurdle today when it passed the House by a bipartisan vote of 173-25.

"Pennsylvania benefits when all students are educated and prepared for meaningful employment, higher education and self-sufficiency, and our current system doesn’t provide for that outcome," said Sturla, D-Lancaster. "This is a comprehensive bill that brings together the best ideas from all the stakeholders involved, and its passage is a critical first step on a path that will better serve the 270,000 students statewide who receive special education services."

Sturla’s legislation (H.B. 704) would establish a formula to be used for the distribution of special education funding to the Commonwealth’s 500 school districts. Sturla said that under the current system , which has been in place since 1991, the state erroneously assumes a 16 percent special education population for every district across the state. He added that spending on special education has failed to keep pace with inflation and that without corrections to the funding system, there is pressure on school districts to increase property taxes to meet local needs.

The bill would allow for the General Assembly to determine the level of state funding for special education each year, and the formula would be applied to distribute any increase in funding. The formula uses several factors to decide a district’s allocation, including the actual number of special-needs students in a district, the base cost to educate all students, a different weight for each of three cost categories for students with disabilities, and district-specific variables for actual spending, poverty, tax effort and cost of living.

Reforms to basic education funding were made in 2008, but did not include special education. Under H.B. 704, special education would remain an independent line item in the state budget. The legislation also includes provisions that would ensure that no school sees a reduction in special education funding from current levels, as well as accountability standards that streamline and strengthen the requirement for districts to implement three-year special education plans.

"I want to thank the 36 organizations who have supported this special education reform and advocated for House Bill 704 with their legislators," Sturla said. "This was a complete team effort and now we must focus our attention on the Senate."

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