Rivera to lawmakers: Even the funding playing field

Written by Rachel McDevitt/Radio Pennsylvania | Mar 9, 2016 3:34 AM

FILE PHOTO: Pedro Rivera, the state education secretary.(Photo: Jason Plotkin, York Daily Record)

(Harrisburg) -- Basic education in Pennsylvania takes up nearly 40 percent of the state budget.

But, the head of the Education Department reminded state senators at a budget hearing Tuesday, the money isn't being spent evenly.

The commonwealth ranks among the highest in the country in terms of education funding per student, with about $13,000 spent on average per pupil.

But during his testimony, Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera stressed the need to strive for bridging the funding gap among schools. 

"If we pulled out state subsidy, just local subsidy for school districts, the average current expenditure per student across the commonwealth would be $10,000 a student. In our wealthiest quartile, that number would be $12,900 per student," he testified. "In our poorest districts, that number would be $6,700 per student."

Republican Senator Pat Browne of Lehigh County, chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee.

He has told Rivera to speak up more on issues across state government, because costs going up in other departments will affect the education agency

"As the education head, it's collapsing around you," he says. "It's collapsing around you on legacy costs too."

The Basic Education Funding Commission created a new school funding formula last year, but it hasn't been implemented yet.

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