Pennsylvania lawmakers are finally addressing special education funding reform, something administrators at most York County school districts have been urging for years.

Don't get too excited.

What the Legislature actually has done is pass a bill, which creates a commission, which will be tasked with revamping the formula.

It's probably more accurate to say lawmakers are beginning to try to figure out how to address special education funding.

At least they're doing something.

It's obvious the way the state currently funds special education is flawed and unfair.

Rather than funding the actual amount it costs districts to educate special-needs students, the state uses a flat formula that assumes each district has a special-needs population that is 16 percent of the total student body.

That means some districts get more than they need, while others get less than their actual costs.

The disparity is particularly apparent in York County.

Late last year, The York Dispatch analyzed local districts' special education populations and costs, compared to state averages.

We found the number of special education students who cost local districts more than $25,000 a year grew nearly 82 percent between 2006-07 and 2011-12. At the same time, the cost of educating those students jumped by at least 91 percent.

Both of those numbers far exceeded the state increases over the same period -- 25 percent growth in students who cost at least $25,000 a year and 37 percent increase in the cost to educate them, respectively.


Still, each district received roughly the same amount.

Local school officials are hoping the new commission -- Gov. Tom Corbett is expected to sign the bill -- will be able to come up with a new formula based on districts' true costs.

The problem is going to be convincing districts that are now being overpaid to accept less.

That's what bogged down a House bill in 2010, the last time the Legislature took a serious crack at reforming special education funding.

The original bill did in fact replace the flat-rate formula with one based on the actual number of special-needs students in each district -- some districts would receive more money, some would receive less.

But it was amended at the last minute to ensure no district would have its funding decreased as a result of the bill -- even if it has fewer than 16 percent of its students enrolled in special education.

It made no sense.

If the state has a pot of money that's being unfairly distributed, lawmakers need to fix the distribution.

The solution is not to get a bigger pot and try to make everyone happy.

Not surprisingly, the bill died.

Maybe the members of this new commission will learn from that earlier experience and get serious this time around.

A proper fix might not please everyone.

But it should be fair.