The Senate unanimously approved legislation providing long overdue reform measures for equitable special education funding, according to Senator Pat Browne, the bill’s prime sponsor.
“The reforms and the changes proposed in Senate Bill 470 are important and they are long overdue. Pennsylvania’s special education funding formula system is archaic and is ineffective in ensuring that state money is adequately and equitability distributed to assist Pennsylvania’s physically- and mentally-challenged students,” Senator Browne said. “Rather, special education funding in Pennsylvania is based on a rigid formula and simply does not take into account the actual number of students needing specialized education services or the type and intensity of assistance that is required for these young people.”
SB 470 allocates any new state special education funding in a manner that recognizes the actual number of physically- and mentally-challenged students in a school and the various levels of their need for services. It does not reduce the current level of special education funding received by local school districts.
The legislation does not establish a new funding formula. It empowers a legislative commission to develop the formula. The panel will be charged with developing a funding formula using a few basic parameters.
Under SB 470, the formula for new special education funding must:
- Recognize three levels of services, based on intensity, provided to individual students;
- Create weighted factors for each level that reflect range of services needed to educate students;
- And, use the average student count for each school district over a three-year period in each of the three levels of service.
SB 470 ensures that the public will be able to provide input on the formula as it is being developed. The bill requires the legislative commission to hold three regional public hearings to give interested parties the opportunity to offer their opinions and suggestions.
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.