“I like working in a nice environment, and I feel cared for when I get a new chair and a new desk instead of something rusty or worn out,” said Quinn O’Leary, a Beaver Area High School student.
Our students learn, grow, and create lifelong habits within the four walls of their classroom.
However, not all classrooms are created equal.
KDKA spoke to local school districts about their funding and asked one lawmaker when the Legislature would make a change.
Once O’Leary set eyes on her high school, she noticed changes.
“I remember the car stopping, and I saw the covers around the windows across the buildings, and it makes the school look nicer aesthetically, and it’s also a good safety tool for our school.”
A new year with new paint, a Beaver Bobcat safety cover to cover the first floor glass, and new furniture coming into the science lab.
“Yes, in the first period of consumer science, we have a brand new cabinet for lab equipment, and it’s kind of hard to deal with old stuff, so having everything brand new is really helpful for our labs and even sitting in nicer, easier chairs to concentrate.”
The Beaver Area School District invests $55 per student in school infrastructure.
The show, compiled by CBS News and analyzed by KDKA Investigates, ranks 109th out of the region’s 139 school districts when it comes to infrastructure spending.
It wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t the worst.
Compared to other schools locally, they spend $783 less per student than the average on infrastructure, but they still find ways to make that count.
“I mean I love it, especially since the hallways and ceilings have been redone…it makes me feel like I’m going to an upper-class school,” Caleb Berardelli of Beaver Area High School said.
Barardelli is a running back on the high school football team, so a facelift goes a long way.
“We were in a state of hype; we had dressing rooms to sit in, and a bunch of lockers. We knew it was coming, but we didn’t know it was going to be this beautiful, so we’re very lucky to have this now.”
Beaver District Supervisor Mark Holtzman said he wants to invest smarter and complete infrastructure jobs in cost-effective ways. He continues to improve the district’s financial plan because he says too much money is going toward retirement and charter schools.
He says the amount of money left is never enough.
“If you don’t have a plan, the next thing you know the roof is leaking in 20 places, or the elevator is broken and needs to be repaired for $100,000. You have to have the ability to keep up with maintenance. Your schools.”
The district relies on an 80/20 split for funding — 80% of tax revenue from the community and about 20% from state and federal funding.
Now, drive an hour south, and you’ll find Holtzman’s teacher, Dr. Janet Sardone, superintendent of the West Jefferson Hills School District.
Its funding breakdown is the same, 80/20, but her district tops the list in infrastructure spending at $7,792 per student.
“We built this building, added a wing to the core building, (and) did an HVAC project. Those facility numbers are this building and a couple of other projects across the board. If you move it forward or forward, you’re going to find a “These numbers look completely different.”
Sardone says she tries to keep up with the recording; It has risen 12% over the past six years. The district expects another 400 to 500 students to enroll in the next decade. However, she believes that equitable funding is an issue, and that raising taxes on residents has only worked in the regions so far.
“We’ve always had conversations among my colleagues about fair financing, and what does fair financing mean?”
KDKA Investigates crunched the numbers and found that schools across the country, on average, spend $1,244 per student on infrastructure construction each year, but in the Pittsburgh area, the average is just $838.
The data shows that districts that have completed the most infrastructure projects have the fewest students receiving free and reduced lunch, meaning that less affluent districts invest less in infrastructure by as much as $582 per student each year.
Moreover, state investments have failed to close the funding gap, with the state only providing about $60 more per student to these less affluent districts.
Rep. Dan Miller used to sit on the State Education Committee and say the current funding formula wasn’t working. Some areas continue to thrive, others can’t get ahead, he says.
“Making sure that this gap that may exist is not going to be so steep that the child can’t see their future in it, right? And the court said that, and I think they were right,” Representative Miller said. “Your food costs, your mental health, your disability, your tech stuff, those universal needs, have to be met by Harrisburg, that’s all.”
But data shows that Harrisburg is not meeting those needs, leaving many districts with little money left for needed infrastructure projects. The latest court ruling says state lawmakers must fix more than $4 billion in educational inequality and do it quickly.
“The court also has tools to enforce any decision that will be part of the court’s decision that it will make. I hope that they will not have to inform us of our failure to fulfill this obligation, and instead that we will fulfill it.” ASAP, Rep. Miller added.
While schools in Pennsylvania are severely underfunded by the state, they are not the worst in the country. Nationally, the average funding from states per student is $149, and the average funding in Pennsylvania is $256.
Rep. Miller hopes this will be a top priority for the Education Committee this fall.
(Tags for translation)Pennsylvania