The Special Education Funding Formula Commission held its inaugural meeting today (May 15) and is now ready to begin its work on developing an equitable system for distributing state money to local school districts, according to Senator Pat Browne (R-Lehigh), who was elected at the organizational meeting to co-chair the panel with Representative Bernie O’Neill (R-Bucks).
The commission set June 13, at a time and location in the Capitol to be determined, for its first public hearing on the issue.
Representative O’Neill and Senator Browne were the prime sponsors in their respective chambers of Act 3 of 2013 , the legislation creating and charging the 15-member commission with developing a system for allocating 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.
“We expect to undertake a comprehensive study of a number of factors over the upcoming months,” Senator Browne said. “Obviously, the current system of allocating funding across the board based on a fixed percentage is not working. It doesn’t take into account the realities that school districts face in providing education services for all of their students. We are looking to develop realistic parameters that will ensure that state funding is distributed in a way that will provide the most benefits for children who need specialized services.”
The Special Education Funding Formula Commission will issue a report of its findings by September 30, 2013, but the new special education funding formula will not go into effect until approved by the General Assembly.
Other members of the Senate serving on the commission include Senator Mike Folmer, Chairman of the Senate Education Committee; Senator Andrew Dinniman, Minority Chairman of the Senate Education Committee; as well as Senators James Brewster, Ted Erickson and Judith Schwank.
Other state Representatives serving on the commission include Representative Paul Clymer, Chairman of the House Education Committee; Representative James Roebuck, Minority Chairman of the House Education Committee; as well as Representatives Mark Longietti, Michael Peifer and Mike Sturla.
Representing the Corbett Administration on the Commission are the Secretary of Education; Charles Zogby, Secretary of the Budget; and, Carolyn Dumaresq, Deputy Secretary, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education.
The legislative commission will use the following parameters to develop a new formula for distributing any increases in special education funding over the levels allocated in the 2010-11 school year:
- The formula must include the establishment of three cost categories for students receiving special education services, ranging from least intensive to most intensive.
- The commission must obtain a student count for each school district, averaged for the three most recent school years, for each cost category established.
- The commission will assign a weight to each category of disability.
- The commission must develop a fair system for distributing the increase among the school districts and calculate the amount of funding that each school will receive under the new formula.