WEST CHESTER (September 9, 2019) – Two legislative commissions will travel the state this fall to hear concerns about how Pennsylvania pays for special education and higher education, respectively, state Senator Andy Dinniman said.
Dinniman, who serves as minority chair of the Senate Education Committee, has been appointed to serve on both the 15-member Special Education Funding Commission and the 19-member Higher Education Funding Commission.
“Education is the largest expenditure in the state budget and one that touches and shapes the lives of so many of our residents, children, young people, and families,” Dinniman said. “It’s our duty to revisit and establish funding models that ensure state dollars are being utilized effectively and efficiently when it comes to both educating those with disabilities and ensuring that higher education is affordable and accessible to all.”
The Special Education Funding Commission, which was established by Act 3 of 2013, has reconvened this fall to review and reassess the formula that was established based on its initial recommendations. The commission will compile its findings in a report due by November 30, which may include recommendations to change the way special education dollars are distributed to the Commonwealth’s nearly 3,300 public schools.
“In 2013, we adopted a new formula based on the extent of a student’s special education needs, as well as other factors,” Dinniman said. “That formula is more than five years old and it only makes sense to revisit and look at ways to update or improve it. We want to see what is working and what may not be working.”
The General Assembly determines a budget for special education funding for Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts each June. This year lawmakers approved $1.18 billion this for special-ed, a $50 million (4 percent) increase from 2018. For schools in Chester County, that amounted to a nearly $3 million boost.
In addition, Dinniman is a member of the Higher Education Funding Commission, a new panel that will review and make recommendations related to higher education funding, affordability and effectiveness and administration and operations
That commission, established under Act 70 of 2019, is tasked with developing a higher education funding formula and identifying factors that may be used to determine the distribution of funding among the public institutions of higher education in Pennsylvania.
It officially convened on August 27 and must issue a report of the commission’s findings by next July.
Like the Special Education Funding Commission, the Higher Education Funding Commission must be approved by an act of the General Assembly and enacted into law to take effect. It, too, is charged with reconvening every five years to reassess and review the formula.
Dinniman was also a member of the Basic Education Funding Commission, which in 2015 recommended a new formula for distributing state funding for basic education to Pennsylvania school districts. That formula was subsequently approved and enacted to the legislature. Next year, the Basic Education Funding Commission is set to be reconvened to reexamine and reassess it.