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Pennsylvania Fact Sheet

State Funding Context

From NCES (most current available statistics):

Pre-K to 12 Students, 2005-2006: 1,830,684
Annual Per-Pupil Expenditures, 2004-2005: $10,274
% Eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch, 2005-2006: 31.4%

Study Title:

“Costing Out the Resources Needed to Meet Pennsylvania’s Public Education Goals”


Date Completed:

November 2007

Definition of Adequacy:

The study describes adequacy as meeting the state’s performance standard (universal mastery of standards in 12 academic areas and 100 percent proficiency on state assessments of reading and math).

Note: State assessments only test reading, writing, and math. As required by NCLB, testing in science is scheduled to be phased in during the 2007-2008 school year.

Calculated Base /Per Pupil Costs for 2005-2006:

Base Cost per student = $8,003
Per student costing out estimate = $11,926
Actual per student spending = $9,512

Statewide aggregate costing-out estimate = $21.63 billion
Actual statewide aggregate spending = $17.25 billion

Calculated Additional Costs for 2005-2006:

APA establishes four cost pressures that are related to specific student characteristics: 1) special education; 2) poverty; 3) English language learners; 4) gifted. The additional per student cost was calculated at 1.1 for special education, 0.43 for poverty (the proxy used was the number of students enrolled in the federal free and reduced price lunch program), 0.75 for English language learners, and 0.37 for gifted students.

APA calculated the average cost for these students as follows (figures are not adjusted to account for location):

- $10,404 per student in special education
- $3,441 per poverty student
- $14,357 per ELL student
- $3000 per gifted student

Major Recommendations: The APA study finds that substantial additional funding is needed for schools and districts to meet Pennsylvania’s specific performance target and achieve 100 percent proficiency. The authors do not believe that a “one-size fits all” approach will solve the problem. Instead, they recommend that necessary additional funds be collected at the state level and allocated by the state through a formula that is sensitive to the needs and wealth of school districts, so that Pennsylvania can be better able to reduce the inequities caused by the current heavy reliance on local revenues.

Additional Findings:

According to the study, in the aggregate the costing out estimate is $4.38 billion and 25.4 percent higher than current spending.

Out of Pennsylvania’s 501 school districts, the authors identified 471 districts whose current spending is below their costing out estimate.

Pennsylvania’s least wealthy districts are the furthest from the costing out estimate of resource needs.

Although APA says that on average Pennsylvania needs to raise spending by 25.4 percent, the study concludes that the poorest 20 percent of school districts and Philadelphia need to raise spending by 37.5 and 50 percent respectively. In contrast, the wealthiest 20 percent only have to raise spending by 6.6 percent.


The authors of this study combined three different methodologies to derive comprehensive results. The research approaches used by APA included a successful school district analysis, a professional judgment analysis, and an evidence based analysis.

The successful school district approach measures the spending of high performing school districts against state performance expectations;

The professional judgment approach relies on the expertise and experience of educators to specify the resources, staff and programs that schools need to meet performance expectations;

The evidence based approach uses education research to recommend how resources should be deployed in schools so that students can meet performance expectations.

APA also conducted other analyses designed to understand issues associated with factors such as student transportation, educator wages, change in enrollment, and regional cost of living differences across the state.

Using these methodologies and analyses, APA identified a performance target or “standard” by which all schools would be measured, and this target represented the single goal by which all of APA’s costing out efforts were ultimately measured.

Special Features

This is one of the few cost studies that estimates the resources needed so that 100 percent of students can achieve proficiency in reading, writing, and math by 2014.

The study accounted for students with special needs, including students in poverty, special education students, and English language learners.

The study also took into account additional cost factors associated with differences between school districts based on their size, enrollment trends, and regional costs of living.

Beyond “adequacy” the study considered “equity” from the student and the taxpayer perspective to determine if the resources spent on public schools are distributed in a way that allows all children to have an equal opportunity to succeed in school.

This study did not consider food service costs, transportation costs, costs associated with community services, adult education, capital costs (such as school building construction), or debt cost services. These costs are ordinarily excluded from adequacy studies.

Preschool was not included in the study (other than preschool for students with special education needs).


The study concludes that school districts with higher wealth and lower needs spend more than lower wealth districts.

Public Input:

In developing the study, the APA counted on the cooperation of the State Board of Education and the Pennsylvania Department of Education, which both provided their assistance in gathering necessary data. The APA also utilized the expertise of the many panelists who participated in the study.


In February 2008 Governor Rendell proposed a new education formula that would fund the cost study over a six year period.

Prepared for:

Pennsylvania State Board of Education

Prepared by: Augenblick, Palaich, and Associates Inc.