is governor of Pennsylvania
With a brand-new school year underway for the vast majority of Pennsylvania students, it's important to recognize that the way the commonwealth funds its schools has changed significantly - and for the better.
In June, I signed Act 35 into law. It established a fair funding formula for the commonwealth's 500 school districts, and allocates funds in two ways: Schools first receive the same amount received in the previous year, then additional funding is distributed via student-specific factors.
At the same time, the new formula distributes all additional basic education funding dollars through dynamic student and district-based factors, including local tax revenue capacity, student population size and density, and the number of students living in poverty.
Act 35 is also unique in that it requires the funding formula to be continually implemented in coming school years, as no previous funding plans under previous administrations could accomplish.
I understand that many Pennsylvania school districts are still hurting from massive layoffs and program cuts that occurred in 2011 under the previous administration. Among them is the William Penn School District in Delaware County, which filed a court case in 2014 against several parties, including the state Department of Education, the General Assembly, and then-Gov. Tom Corbett.
The district's case challenged the way its schools were being funded at the time. While I agree that many commonwealth schools are still in need of adequate funding, this action was filed prior to the passing of Act 35, which has a positive and substantial impact on the fairness piece for districts like William Penn.
In the current 2016-17 school year, my administration worked with the General Assembly to secure an additional $352 million in basic education funding to be distributed through the new funding formula. In total, we've secured a historic $415 million for kindergarten through 12th-grade schools over just two years. Specifically, William Penn and five other districts that took part in this suit will receive between $580,000 and $6 million in additional education funding this school year. The passing of Act 35 also represents the first time state funding will be based on the objective needs of each individual district.
We must remember that the enactment of state budgets is constitutionally reserved to the General Assembly and the governor - and is not within the jurisdiction of the court. As such, I recently obtained permission from the Office of the Attorney General to be separately represented before the court in order to file a petition stating my stance on this serious and important issue.
There can be no real dispute that all Pennsylvania public school students deserve a high-quality education and access to the resources necessary to be successful in the 21st-century economy. The additional basic education funding secured, along with my support of Act 35, is a product of my commitment to ensure that every child, regardless of zip code, is given those tools to success.
To be clear, I know our work is not nearly done - and I will continue to vigorously fight for additional appropriations for public education in the budget years to come.