CARBONDALE – Like other school districts in Pennsylvania, Carbondale Area is struggling with the lack of funding from the state.
In late December Governor Tom Wolf announced emergency funding would be released for human services and the school districts so they can keep running despite the lack of a state budget.
While those funds will help alleviate some expenses of those entities, it isn't a cure all.
“Carbondale Area has been very vocal in its dissatisfaction with the current funding status in the state of Pennsylvania,” stated Superintendent Joseph Gorham.
“We've been very clear in saying all along when we testified... [in] Harrisburg, that this is not a solution. This is a band-aid to a much bigger problem.
“Does it solve our problems? Absolutely not. It allows us to pay off vendors that we were in the rears with, so we'll be paying off those bills, but it doesn't solve the long term problem.”
Gorham added Pennsylvania doesn't have a fair funding formula implemented either.
“We give out money to school districts based on a how many kids fit in the seats formula rather than how many kids fit in those seats and what does their area look like,” he explained.
Gorham provided an example of what that means, comparing a Philadelphia school and Carbondale Area.
“In north of Philadelphia there's a school that's in a very wealthy area and has 1,600 students and [when] you compare it to Carbondale, which has 1,600 students, is that a fair comparison of demographics?” Gorham stated.
“This area here in wealthy Philadelphia has a higher taxing base, has more working people contributing to that tax base, has no charter school and has no other additional demographic factors that cost more money to educate those students.
“We have all of those factors. We have low income, we have a high age population and we have charter schools that take our money away from us without any reimburseables.
“How is that fair? That's what the fair funding formula is. Don't just distribute the funds to people.
“Distribute it fairly based on a formula that represents the demographics of that school district.”
Gorham added money is currently being distributed by comparing apples to oranges, rather than “this apple has a bite taken out of it and this is an orange over here, [so] we have to look at it differently.
“Does the money help us?” he asked.
“Of course it helps us because it pays off bills that were in our rears, but does it solve the long term solution? Absolutely not.”
He added Carbondale Area is currently funded based on 1,728 students.
“If the fair funding formula was fully implemented, we would receive funding based on 5,861 students, nearly tripling the amount of money we would receive from the state,” Gorham explalined.
“Why? We are one of the poorest school districts, demographic, based on the population per capita, all of those factors, we're one of the poorest in the state of Pennsylvania.
“That has been our argument. You can't give equal funding based on kids in the seat.
“You have to give equal and fair funding based on what those kids in the seat look like. We've said this over and over and over again.
“We can't continually give out money to school districts in the same way across the Commonwealth because every school district looks completely different.”
In Pennsylvania the fair funding formula has been approved, but it hasn't been fully implemented.
Gorham said it's been around for 10 years and was brought together by Republicans and Democrats.
“It is completely a bi-partisan effort,” he stated. “It has nothing to do with politics.
“It came about from former superintendents and people from education that were retired and said we aren't doing this right.
“Pennsylvania is only one of three states in the nation that doesn't have that fair funding formula. It's ridiculous.
“Pennsylvania needs to lead. We can't continually be behind.”