Pennsylvania’s Education Funding Formula Redistributes Wealth
Pennsylvania’s Basic Education Funding (BEF) formula is a complicated system developed over years of political in-fighting, social awareness, and local sensitivities.
Few understand it, but while it might not take a village to raise a child, it certainly takes all kinds of tax dollars to provide for one in a public school.
The current debate over the possibility of ending school property taxes statewide leads to the question of which of the state’s 500 school districts receive the most money per student (including all local, state, and federal tax dollars).
The following numbers are based on figures from the state Department of Education.
The five districts receiving the most total dollars per student are:
- Moshannon School District, Clearfield County — $31,544
- Springfield Township School District, Montgomery County — $29,173
- Greater Johnstown School District, Cambria County — $27,412
- Lower Merion School District, Montgomery County — $27,041
- Austin Area School District, Potter County — $24,513
The five districts receiving the lowest amounts per pupil in combined state, local and special tax dollars were:
- Mount Carmel Area School District, North Umberland County — $10,102
- Saint Clair Area School District, Schuylkill County — $10,199
- Greater Nanticoke Area School District, Luzerne County — $10,222
- Juniata School District, Juniata County — $10,037
- Crestwood School District, Luzerne County — $10,547
Those figures represent the combined total of all local, state, and federal tax dollars received on a per pupil attendance rate.
The districts receiving the most in local taxes (read property taxes) were:
- Lower Merion School District, Montgomery County — $24,096
- Radnor Township School District,Delaware County — $18,739
- Jenkintown School District, Montgomery County — $17,786
- Cheltenham Township School District, Montgomery County — $17,772
- Newhope-Solebury School District, Bucks County — $17,759
Those districts are in the most affluent sections of the state and all in southeastern Pennsylvania.
The five districts receiving the lowest per pupil funding from local tax revenues are:
- Reading School District, Berks County — $1,927
- Windber Area School District, Somerset County — $2,128
- Midland Borough School District, Beaver County — $2,169
- Blacklick Valley School District, Cambria County — $2,234
- Mount Carmel School District, Northumberland School District — $2,558
The five districts receiving the most state tax dollars per student are:
- Duquesne City School District, Allegheny County — $15,091
- Chester Upland School District, Delaware County — $12,806
- Purchase Line School District, Indiana County — $11,970
- Union School District, Clarion County — $11,810
- Penns Manor School District, Indiana County — $11,472
The five school districts receiving the least state tax dollars per student were:
- Conestoga Valley School District, Lancaster County — $2,022
- Upper Merion School District, Montgomery County — $2,092
- Bryn Athyn School District, Montgomery County — $2,106
- Manheim School District, Lancaster County — $2,110
- Tredyffrin-Easttown School District, Chester County — $2,111
The five districts receiving the most federal tax dollars per student for education were:
- Duquense City School District, Allegheny County — $2,882
- Plum Borough School District, Allegheny County — $2,351
- Philadelphia School District, Philadelphia County — $1,888
- Harrisburg School District, Dauphin County — $1,653
- Lancaster School District, Lancaster County — $1,615
Those districts, aside from Plum Borough, are all inner-city districts.
An analysis of the finances indicates wealthier districts, which produce higher state income, sales and business tax revenues, also provide most of the school finances via property taxes for their local districts. They additionally subsidize other school districts in taxes provided to the General Fund, which are then distributed through the BEF formula.
Overall, the average total amount per student statewide was $14,262 with $8,260 coming from local taxes, $5,081 from state taxes and almost $600 from the federal government.