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David Reed: Public Education Funding

Dave Reed of The Pennsylvania House of Representatives is involved in resolving state educational issues in a variety of ways. This is mainly through oversight on the funding aspect of education at the state level. This funding constitutes a significant portion of the funding for the local school districts. Through the state department of education, a legislator also has a mandate in indirectly influencing curriculum issues. He also has an input in the planning and provision of materials, systems and personnel that the schools require to uphold student performance, including a raft of issues affecting school districts.

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Legislator Dave Reed has been serving on the Preparation Committee that makes budgets for the entire state for the last two years. He will not be on this committee for the next two years. The State Board of Education is the key administrative and regulatory body for education in Pennsylvania. This committee finds out the financing for education. Legislator Reed maintains that one of the primary roles of governance is in funding. Property tax is a key source of revenue for many localities and is levied on the market value of private property.

A large tranche of this goes towards funding state education. The control of education through the setting of standards for students to progress to the next level of education is also achieved through governance. He is of the opinion that with the overall education policy, it would be advantageous to leave it to the local level for the local communities and parents to decide and significantly influence. The state, however, holds the view that this approach complicates matters and made it difficult to establish the right environment for students.

Legislator Reed was quick to explain that a legislator does not change the curriculum. They focus on the funding side of these issues. The Department of education in Harrisburg deals with curriculum matters. However, the federal government can affect aspects of the curriculum and the local school boards have some control. He offers that the management of these schools is, therefore, a partnership between the three but the state leaves it mostly to the department of education to set many of the requirements.

Parents should be able to determine the best education for their children based on their psychological, material or academic needs. In a poorly performing school district where the parents feel that the child’s needs are not adequately met, this need is heightened. It is, therefore, a positive thing when they have viable options. A blanket condemnation or support for either system is not a satisfactory approach. The best approach for the public schools is to take the opportunity to learn from the parents’ reservations with public schools and on what the alternate schools are offering.

Legislator Reed indicated that more options for the people means the state becomes more competitive in education. He said that while this might be an easy thing in the city of Pittsburgh with the proximity of private schools, this might not be the case in a rural town like Indiana County. The transportation side of alternative schools does complicate matters for the standards offered. It is, therefore, also necessary to take care of quality transportation.

Education funding has been a contentious issue for the last few years countrywide. According to the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors (2007), there has been debate on the need to change the source of this funding from property taxes to state administered income taxes. Unlike properties, income is more equally distributed across the populace. This is considered a fair approach. According to Yost and Madonna (2003), the State House of Representatives passed an education-funding plan in 2008.

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The key provision of this piece of legislation is that it introduces an income tax that will give participating districts block grants. These grants will go to preschool, kindergarten, improvement in standardization of test scores and tutorship programs. By holding schools accountable, it may be possible for the system to realize significant savings. This also requires tighter controls on school spending. The costs of running core school activities have been steadily rising over the last few years. Encouraging consolidation of services and monitoring operational efficiency can result in lower revenue demands for schools.

References

Pennsylvania Association of Realtors. (September 2007). Policy Statement: Education and Economic Development Funding Options. Web.

Yost, B., & Madonna, G.T. (2003). Center for Opinion Research: Public Education, Education Funding and Public Opinion: What do Pennsylvanians have to say? Web.

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