Our opinion: Commendable legislation

What’s this? Thoughtful, reasonable legislation cruising through the Pennsylvania General Assembly and on to the Governor’s desk with bipartisan support.

Yes, indeed, and we commend them for it.

The bill in question would create a commission to formulate a more reasonable funding structure for special education funding in Pennsylvania.

Up to this point, state funding to local school districts for special education was based on a rough guess. That is, it was based on the total number of special education students in the district, lumping them all together regardless of the actual cost of their special needs.

The commission will be charged with coming up with a formula based on actual needs, since like all children those children aided by special education services are not homogenous. Some needs are more expensive than others; some are less.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Pat Browne, a Republican of Lehigh County, instructs the commission to separate students for the purposes of calculating funding into three categories based on their need for services, where more funding would be allocated for students needing more costly services.

Currently the state assumes that each district has 16 percent of its students receiving special education, that they all have about the same needs, and funds the services accordingly. Although the funds can be partially augmented by the contingency fund for students with extraordinary expenses, there is nothing in place to assist schools that continually struggle with higher special education costs.

This is called funding services based on actual needs, and we think the concept should be applied to many more things that government funds in addition to special education.