Advertisement

Funding competition

February 03, 1997

With tax collections running 2.2 percent ahead of last year, officials of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge's administration will today announce initiatives that should erase the image some have of the governor as a pro-business leader who doesn't care about the poor. We suggest they proceed cautiously on new programs, which are easier to create that to cut back when money is tight.

For example, education spending would increase by $100 million, with $90 million going to the state's poorest school districts, which have long been fighting for just such a windfall. Even in a recession, cutting back anything from that amount would be portrayed as a heartless or even a racist move, even if it were a financial necessity.

Ridge's aides have a better idea for the remaining $10 million. They would distribute it based on performance, with cash coming to schools with good attendance rates, improved test scores and falling dropout rates. The idea, officials say, is to reward good performance instead of penalizing mistakes.

Advertisement

It would be nice if the program included a mechanism to document what schools are doing to win greater percentages of state aid. That's because if using 10 percent of what is called the "basic school subsidy" encourages local schools to improve, then why not make 20 or even 50 percent of the aid subject to performance guidelines next year?

Some will answer that question by saying that it's not fair to penalize students for the shortcomings of their schools. To that we would say two things:

- The basic state aid formula gives the poorer districts a greater share of general aid, ensuring that impoverished students get a larger share of state aid than those in wealthier areas.

-It's not fair to penalize taxpayers, nor is a good use of state tax money in general, to subsidize something that isn't working well.

Let's ask legislators to look at what school systems do to compete for $10 million, with an eye toward giving more around the state a chance to enter the competition next year.

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|