Rep. Stephens Proposes $250 Million From Race Horse Development Fund For Underfunded Schools
—Citing the gross inequity of the Pennsylvania school funding formula, Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery) is proposing legislation to increase state funding to school districts in PA that receive less than 35 percent of their funding from the Commonwealth.
While some districts receive as much as 78 percent of their total school funding from the state, others receive just 10 percent of their school funding from the Commonwealth. Those figures translate to a statewide high of $12,102 per student in Basic Education Funding (BEF) to a statewide low of $478 in Basic Education Funding; Stephens voted against the school funding formula during last year’s budget and voiced his objection to the bill on the House floor.
“The Pennsylvania Constitution requires the General Assembly to provide for a ‘thorough and efficient’ school system for our children. The State isn’t fulfilling its obligation to all our children forcing school districts to rely more heavily on property and local income taxes,” explained Stephens.
To help address the disparities in the current school funding formula, Stephens is introducing legislation to create the Local Effort Equalization Fund (LEEF). This fund would provide a supplement to property-taxpayers in school districts receiving less than 35 percent of their total funding from the state.
According to the most recent data available, 211 school districts would benefit from this supplement.
The LEEF would be funded by transferring $250 million from slot machine tax revenue currently going to the Race Horse Development Fund (RHDF). Since its inception, the RHDF has received more than $1.7 billion.
“There's a reason horse racing is called ‘The Sport of Kings,’” Stephens said. “Some of those who have won enhanced purses provided by the RHDF include Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Prince Faisal bin Khalid bin Abdulaziz, and countless, out-of-state, millionaire racehorse owners.
“We have a constitutional obligation to fund our schools; not to provide economic incentives for one segment of one industry. Rather than funding the pastime of the world's wealthy and elite, I believe these funds should be used to fulfill our moral and constitutional obligations to our children and to help reduce the burden of local property taxpayers in 211 school districts.”
LEEF Funding Chart
LEEF Montco and Bucks Chart
Representative Todd Stephens
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: David Foster