Education Experts Provided Testimony To Inform Recommendations For Updating PA’s Special Education Funding Formula

Moon Township, PA – October 2, 2019 – Yesterday afternoon, Senator Pam Iovino chaired a meeting of the Special Education Funding Commission at the Moon Area School District. The hearing included expert testimony to the Commission, which was re-established by Act 16 to review Pennsylvania’s special education funding formula, last updated in 2013. The Commission, a bi-partisan, bi-cameral body, is charged with issuing a report to the General Assembly by November 30th with recommendations on how the state can more fairly and effectively distribute special education funds while better considering school districts’ needs and ability to raise local revenue. 

“We appreciated the opportunity to hear directly from educators and advocates in Southwestern Pennsylvania regarding how the existing special education funding formula addresses the needs of our schools and our students, and how it can be improved,” said Senator Pam Iovino (D-Allegheny & Washington). “We heard some very specific recommendations to assist this Commission with updating the formula, and I appreciated the testimony from all witnesses who contributed their insight and expertise to this process.”

“Traveling around the Commonwealth to receive input from our colleagues that serve diverse communities are why opportunities like yesterday’s hearing are so important,” said Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera, a Commission Co-Chair. “Supporting local school districts in meeting their special education requirements is an important priority for the Department of Education.”

Part 1

“The testimony heard at Moon Township School District will prove to be immensely valuable as we continue to review and evaluate the current special education funding formula,” said Senate Appropriations Chairman Pat Browne (R-Lehigh), one of the Co-Chairs of the Special Education Funding Commission. “The value of revisiting this funding formula every five years is that it provides the opportunity to consider new perspectives and ever-changing circumstances in special education. The experts and practitioners that the Commission heard from yesterday, and will continue to hear from throughout this process, are essential in identifying and defining these new considerations and will ultimately create a better funding system for school districts and the children they serve.”

“This was a great first meeting and I look forward to hearing from additional Intermediate Units and School Districts from across the Commonwealth,” said Rep. Curtis Sonney (R-Erie), a Commission Co-Chair. “As House Education Chair, ensuring we properly distribute special education funds is a matter of great importance to me.”

Part 2

The Commission heard testimony from local school district Business Managers regarding the unique challenges our region’s schools face. Robert Geletko, Business Director for the Mt. Lebanon School District said “while the new formula did provide relief, the expenditures have more than doubled in relation to new revenue stream. The upward trends and unknowns in special education costs and special education enrollments continue to present budgeting difficulties.” Chelsea M. Campolongo, Business Manager for the South Park Township School District said that “while the South Park School District has experienced an increase of more than 14% in state special education funding, the benefit of this increase has been negated by a nearly 67% increase in special education costs over that same time period.”

“Of all the cost drivers on school district budgets, special education is one of the fastest rising and one of the hardest to control,” said John Callahan, Chief Advocacy Officer for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

“The increase in district expenses, often being driven by the increases in children being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum and Emotional Disorders, are not being adequately funded,” said Jason Wagner, Executive Director of ARIN Intermediate Unit 1 in his written testimony.

A full video of the hearing can be found on Senator Iovino’s website: Part 1 and Part 2.

Pictures from the hearing can be found here.

The Commission’s remaining public meetings are as follows:

  • Erie: Wednesday, October 2nd
  • Lancaster: Monday, October 7th
  • Lehigh Valley: Tuesday, October 8th

The full membership of the Commission is as follows:

Administration: Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera, Deputy Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Matt Stem, Secretary of the Budget Appointee Natalia Krug

PA Senate: Education Chair Wayne Langerholc (R-Bedford, Cambria & Clearfield), Pat Browne (R-Lehigh), Scott Martin (R-Lancaster); Minority Education Chair Andrew Dinniman (D-Chester), Maria Collett (D- Bucks & Montgomery), Pam Iovino (D-Allegheny & Washington)

PA House: Education Chair Curtis Sonney (R-Erie), Jesse Topper (R-Bedford, Franklin, Fulton), George Dunbar (R- Westmoreland); Minority Education Chair James Roebuck (D- Philadelphia County), Mark Longietti (D- Mercer), Mike Sturla (D-Lancaster)