Lancaster County schools would get $4.79 million in additional basic education funding under the governor’s proposed budget.
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday requested from the Republican-controlled legislature $6.5 billion in basic education funding for Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts. That’s $200 million, or 3.3 percent, more than last year’s appropriation.
Nearly $705 million of that would be distributed through the basic education funding formula enacted in 2016. Currently, $539 million, or 8.8 percent, flows through the formula, which considers factors such as poverty, English language learners and charter school enrollment when funding schools.
Schools here would get increases anywhere from 1.9 percent to 6.3 percent.
Conestoga Valley is the county’s biggest winner under Wolf’s proposal, which calls for a 6.3 percent increase, from $4.85 million to $5.15 million, for the 4,265-student district.
Manheim Township is also among the greatest beneficiaries, with a 4.3 percent increase, from $6.33 million to $6.59 million.
According to an analysis by the state House Appropriations Committee last year, those two districts are the county’s most underfunded. Basic education funding per student is $1,048 and $1,018 at Conestoga Valley and Manheim Township, respectively. That’s compared to, say, Solanco, which receives $2,869 per student — one of the county's highest.
Conestoga Valley Superintendent Dave Zuilkoski said in an email that the state is taking “small steps to rectify inequities in the funding formula, hence the larger increase than my Lancaster counterparts.”
School District of Lancaster is also among the most underfunded schools in the county, the analysis says, but it would get the lowest percent basic education funding increase under Wolf’s budget. Funding for SDL would go up 1.9 percent, from $64.93 million to $66.15 million.
"I am encouraged that the governor proposes greater investment in public education, but I again call on lawmakers to fund our schools fully and in an equitable way, Lancaster Superintendent Damaris Rau said. "Districts like ours, with large numbers of students living in poverty, need significant resources to close opportunity gaps for our students."
Ready to Learn, teacher salaries
Wolf’s proposed funding, provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, includes about $242 million from Ready to Learn block grants, which in previous years was a separate funding stream for districts. For an accurate comparison to last year, LNP included block grant funding for both 2019-20 and 2018-19.
For one county district, the allocation also includes money to bump up its teacher salaries.
In his budget address, Wolf proposed a fully funded mandate that would raise the statewide minimum starting salary for public school teachers from $18,500 to $45,000.
Columbia Borough currently employs teachers making less than $45,000. The state data, therefore, includes about $19,000 to raise those salaries. Columbia, however, is hiking its minimum salary for teachers up to $47,059 — from $44,700 this year — so it would not receive that additional funding.