Rich Schools/Poor Schools

Among the flood of education data that helps determine how the state disburses more than $5 billion annually in basic education funding is a category called "poverty concentration."

It measures the percentage of poor pupils in each of the state's 500 school districts, and assigns funding called a "poverty supplement" on that basis.

Most folks no doubt figure Philly is the state's poorest district and the Philly `burbs have the state's richest districts.

That's half right.

The five districts with the lowest percentage of poverty are in Montgomery, Bucks and Chester counties.

They are: Jenkintown and Bryn Athyn in Montgomery County (both zero-percent poverty), Council Rock in Bucks County (2.2 percent), Unionville-Chadds Ford in Chester County (2.3 percent) and New Hope-Solebury in Bucks County (2.9 percent).

But in terms of state-designated poverty, Philly is way down the list, behind 25 other school districts spread throughout Pennsylvania.

The five districts with the highest concentration of pupil poverty are Harrisburg (93.2 percent), Reading (90.4 percent), Farrell in far-western Mercer County (82 percent), Clairton in Allegheny County (80 percent) and York (79 percent).

Philadelphia School District, at 61.5 percent, has less poverty than schools in Lancaster, Williamsport, Erie, Allentown, Johnstown, Pittsburgh and many rural areas.

(You can check all districts' funding and poverty concentration on the 2011-2012 proposed basic education funding link embedded in this link.)

The interesting thing to me  -- because the Legislature is so parochial in its approach to all funding -- is that the education formula is constructed to hand out "poverty supplement" money to every district (except those two zero-poverty districts in Montco) no matter what their concentration is.

While it would make more sense to concentrate state aid on districts with real poverty rather than spread money across all districts, the legislative attitude of "nobody gets nothin' unless my people get somethin'" makes for a funding policy that has more to do with local greed than local need.

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