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Scranton School Directors Hope To See More Funding With State Bill

August 11, 2018

Members of the Scranton School Board want state legislation to provide more funding for the financially struggling district.

School directors are working on a bill that would give additional money to school districts within a class 2A city. Scranton is the only class 2A city in the state. The directors hope local legislators will introduce the bill in Harrisburg.

“A lot of urban districts are forgotten about,” said Director Paul Duffy, who is leading the efforts. “I haven’t found anyone funded lower than we are.”

Scranton receives far less per pupil than districts of similar sizes and demographics. For example, Scranton received an average of $4,109 per pupil in basic education funding in the 2016-17 state budget while Reading received $7,494; Lancaster, $5,284; and Erie, $5,551.

As the district faces a growing deficit and a budget shortfall of more than $8 million for 2019, directors say they need to do more than trim the district’s budget. They need more state revenue.

Duffy said he would like to see the district receive an additional $8 million to $9 million each year. He said he hopes to see that funding yearly until a new state funding formula catches up and distributes funding equitably. The state adopted a formula in 2015 that takes into account local tax effort, poverty and student population. That formula only is applied to new state money. If the state put all basic education funding through that formula, Scranton would have received $69.9 million instead of $42.6 million last year, according to Support Equity First, a Harrisburg organization that campaigns for fair funding.

The district received an additional $2 million from the state to use this year, and Duffy said he hopes to find a more structured and secure way to count on additional funding each year.

“I just want us to be treated equally,” Duffy said. “I’ll even take slightly inadequate (funding). It’s a big step forward, because we’re drastically inadequate now.”

With limited time left in the 2018 legislative session, Duffy wants local lawmakers to introduce the bill next year.

In a statement, state Sen. John Blake, D-22, Archbald, said the district is “chronically underfunded” compared to statewide per-pupil averages.

“Something needs to be done to increase the state share of providing a quality public education to our students,” he said. “I am willing to review suggestions from the board that could be beneficial to SSD but I also have an obligation to pursue more broad reforms and state budget policies to ensure all of our public schools are adequately funded.”

Rep. Marty Flynn, D-113, said he will support efforts to obtain more money for the district, but doubts the bill would make it on to the floor for a vote. He said he is working with the governor’s office to try to secure more money for the district.

Director Katie Gilmartin plans to work with Duffy on details of the district’s proposed bill.

“It’s something we all need to get behind,” she said. “Our students deserve this support. They need this support. It’s about their experiences and their level of education, and in a broader sense, about the future of the community.”

Contact the writer: shofius@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9133; @hofiushallTT on Twitter

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