Education circuit riders coming to Pennsylvania

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HARRISBURG -- A corps of current and former school administrators is preparing to travel Pennsylvania to mobilize local officials for efforts to revamp K-12 education funding.

The initiative comes as a state commission charged with recommending a new school funding formula by June 2015 begins hearing testimony.

The eleven so-called “circuit riders” have been hired to meet with educators for discussions about school funding, though officials organizing the campaign said they are not at this point advocating for specific proposals.

“We’re not at that end point yet of being able to say how those funds get distributed,” said Jay Himes, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials. “We’re starting from the premise that our system’s broken.”

The effort is being paid for with $420,000 from the William Penn Foundation, Mr. Himes said. It is part of a larger campaign by teachers unions, business organizations, religious associations and other advocacy groups for a long-term school funding formula.

The “circuit rider” project is being run by the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators, the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools and the Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units.

“I think it’s maybe a come-to-Jesus part of it,”said Joe Bard, executive director of the rural schools group. “We want local educators to be able to converse with their taxpayers, parents, about how education is funded and what it means to their district to not be properly funded and what it would take for them to be a much higher-functioning school district.”

Ron Duffala, former superintendent of Brentwood Borough School District, Kathleen Kelly, past superintendent of the Williamsport Area School District, and Thomas Zelesnik, former executive director of the Beaver Valley Intermediate Unit, will be traveling for the campaign in southwestern Pennsylvania.

“The funding formula does not lend itself to an equitable and sustainable system,” Mr. Zelesnik said.

Karen Langley: or 717-787-2141 or on Twitter @karen_langley.

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