Trying to put price tag on ‘fair education’ is impossible task

Pennsylvania is in the top 10 among the 50 states in its spending per public education pupil.

That has not kept education spending — and, specifically, how much of it comes from state government — from being a hot-button issue in Pennsylvania for decades.

The problem has usually related to the school funding formula that determines how much of the state funding pie each school district is allotted annually. Given the wide discrepancies in school districts that are inevitable in a state with a few major urban areas and many relatively rural areas, the formula has always come under fire for unfairness.

And the contrasts among school districts are endless. The state has comparatively well-off suburban school districts and comparatively poor urban and rural school districts, often bordering each other.

Perhaps inevitably, a suit was filed in 2014 by the Education Law Center and Public Interest Center claiming the state is violating its constitution and that low-wealth school districts are hurt by the formula.

The case was dismissed in 2015 on the grounds that courts shouldn’t be determining how much money equals a proper education.

The state’s Commonwealth Court apparently is not certain of that. The court rejected Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati’s request to dismiss an appeal of the original ruling.

The next step is a trial to determine how much money equals a proper education.

Good luck to all parties with that. We all wish there was a finite pricetag that guarantees a proper education for all our children.

Most of us realize the folly in that.

Proper education funding on a public level is a matter determined by available funds, a measuring of other spending priorities, and calculations that respect the education priority as well as realism that creates consensus.

We doubt courts will ever be able to rule on any of that in such a way that the finding has present and future certainty.

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