When: Ephrata Area school board meeting Oct. 4, held at the middle school and streamed via Zoom.
What happened: During its committee of the whole meeting, the board discussed whether to support the fair-funding formula used to distribute education funding to each school district across the state. The board recently attended a workshop about the formula and cybercharter schools to gain more knowledge about the topics.
Why it’s important: The upcoming fair-funding lawsuit has been brought up during public comments in earlier board meetings. The lawsuit argues that state aid to education is inadequate to meet the needs of all students and is distributed unfairly. The trial was scheduled to begin Sept. 9 in the Commonwealth Court but has been postponed until Oct. 12.
Background: The formula used to determine funding for school districts in the state is known to be extremely complex, the process is slow and there are winners and losers. If fully implemented, Ephrata would most likely see an increase in funding.
Board discussion: During an advocacy discussion, board members talked about whether they should take a stand supporting the formula. “The complexity of it is mind-numbing. I still don’t fully understand it. It feels like a coin dropped and we’re winners,” board member Philip Eby said, adding that he is concerned it could easily switch. Board Vice President Chris Weber mentioned he is cautious when it comes to advocating for more money from the state. “What we’re essentially doing is giving more control back to the state,” he said. Before potentially moving forward, the board will receive a simplified summary breakdown from the administration on how the formula impacts the district locally.
Masks: In compliance with the current statewide mask order requiring masks in schools, face coverings were required for all guests at the meeting. However, none of the 16 people in the audience wore masks. During the time for public comments, two residents addressed the board about the Sept. 27 meeting held at Ephrata Community Church, criticizing the setting of the board meeting, where the board, unmasked guests and masked guests were assigned to different rooms.
Quotable: “The public attended what I consider a watch party rather than a board meeting,” resident Chris Martin said.
What’s next: Ephrata Area school board will meet Oct. 18.