Indiana, PA - Indiana County

Special education, innovation to get more money from state

by The Indiana Gazette on July 15, 2014 10:55 AM

HARRISBURG — Area school districts will see increases in state funding for the 2014-15 school year in the state budget recently passed by the Legislature.

Overall, House Bill 2328 allocates more than $10 billion in state funding for support of Pennsylvania’s public schools. This represents an increase of $305 million over last year, the highest amount in commonwealth history.

Basic education funding in the coming school year will remain the same as in 2013-2014. The increased state funding will come through more money provided for special education and the Ready to Learn Block Grant initiative that supports programs and services that increase student achievement.

“This was a very difficult budget year as we faced lackluster revenues and steep increases in pension and service costs,” said State Sen. Don White, R-Indiana, in a press release.

“In spite of that, I am pleased we were able to provide additional funding for local school districts. Special education funding had not been increased for several years and the Ready to Learn program provides some flexibility for school districts to invest the state money in areas that show demonstrated positive results in helping students to succeed.”

Schools can use their Ready to Learn Block Grant funding to enhance learning opportunities for students through initiatives, such as curriculum alignment for pre-kindergarten through grade 3; ensuring that all students are performing at grade level by third grade in both reading and math; supplemental and customized student instruction for pre-kindergarten to grade 3; training to support early literacy; supplemental instruction in biology, English language arts and algebra I; instructional coaches; science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education; implementation of the State Literacy Plan; and hybrid learning.

The budget also provides $1.05 billion for special education, an increase of $20 million, the first increase in six years.A district-by-district breakdown of the anticipated state funding increases under the budget shows: • Apollo-Ridge School District: An increase of $108,133, bringing the total for the 2014-15 budget to $220,316 for the Ready to Learn initiative and an increase of $26,042 for special education.

• Armstrong: An increase of $398,797 to $872,279 for Ready to Learn and an increase of $490,515 for special education.

• Harmony Area: An increase of $27,285 to $58,439 for Ready to Learn and an increase of $35,421 for special education.

• Blairsville-Saltsburg: An increase of $122,720 to $261,391 for Ready to Learn and an increase of $150,321 for special education.

• Homer-Center: An increase of $61,443 to $128,809 for Ready to Learn and an increase of $74,600 for special education.

• Indiana Area: An increase of $125,627 to $285,514 for Ready to Learn and an increase of $150,139 for special education.

• Marion Center Area: An increase of $91,261 to $196,708 for Ready to Learn and an increase of $109,332 for special education.

• Penns Manor: An increase of $69,447 to $156,581 for Ready to Learn and an increase of $87,822 for special education.

• Purchase Line: An increase of $80,481 to $174,831 for Ready to Learn and an increase of $98,650 for special education.

• Punxsutawney: An increase of $158,625 to $354,972 for Ready to Learn and an increase of $186,552 for special education.

• United: An increase of $83,244 to $163,695 for Ready to Learn and an increase of $101,308 for special education.

The money represents between a 1 percent and 1.5 percent increase in state funding for the districts, according to White.

“The vast majority of the school districts I represent continue to experience declining enrollments, meaning the 2014-15 budget provides them with more funds to educate fewer students,” he said. “They will all receive increases in overall state funding compliments of the Pennsylvania taxpayer.

“However, I continue to caution all the districts I represent that this approach may not last forever. Pressure continues to mount in an effort to change the way Pennsylvania funds their schools to a per-pupil formula. Nevertheless, I will fight hard to ensure the districts I represent are not financially harmed because of declining enrollment.”

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