Bill Sponsors Sen. Browne, Rep. O’Neill Partake in Ceremonial Signing
Senate Majority Whip Pat Browne (R-Lehigh, Northampton and Monroe) joined Governor Tom Corbett today (June 14th) at William Tennant High School as the Governor ceremonially signed legislation crafted by Senator Browne and Representative Bernie O’Neill (R-Bucks) that will provide long overdue reform to Pennsylvania’s special education funding formula.
Act 3 of 2013 (House Bill 2) created a 15-member panel which will develop methodologies for a new formula to allocate 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.
“I am pleased that the Governor signed this bill into law, which will make long overdue reforms and changes to how Pennsylvania funds special education,” said Senate Majority Whip Pat Browne, who sponsored the companion bill (Senate Bill 470) to House Bill 2. “The current funding formula system is ineffective in ensuring that state money is adequately and equitability distributed. Act 3 creates a Commission, of which I am pleased to be co-chair of, whose charge is to develop a special education funding formula and identify factors that may be used to determine the distribution of changes in funding among school districts.”
Senator Browne, Governor Corbett and Representative O’Neill were joined at the bill signing by Representatives Frank Farry (R-Bucks), Sam Saylor (R-York), Dan Truitt (R-Chester) and Mike Sturla (D-Lancaster) as well as acting Secretary of Education Dr. William Harner and representatives of several special education organizations.
Currently, state funding for special education is distributed based on an estimate that special education students make up 16 percent of the overall student population in each school district.
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.
The commission held its first hearing on June 13, 2013 in Harrisburg and will continue to hold hearings across the state in the upcoming months before it issues a report of its findings this fall. The new special education funding formula will not go into effect, however, until approved by the General Assembly.
House Bill 2 passed both the House of Representatives (March 11, 2013) and the Senate (April 9, 2013) unanimously before being signed by the Governor on April 25, 2013.