My view

Closing educational gaps requires more funding

By PA SCHOOLS WORK CAMPAIGN
Posted 12/29/21

Dear Gov. Wolf,

We write on behalf of the Pennsylvania Schools Work campaign, a coalition of 40 organizations from across Pennsylvania that advocate for adequate and equitable funding to meet the …

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My view

Closing educational gaps requires more funding

Posted

Dear Gov. Wolf,

We write on behalf of the Pennsylvania Schools Work campaign, a coalition of 40 organizations from across Pennsylvania that advocate for adequate and equitable funding to meet the needs of PA public schools, their students, and the communities they serve.

We appreciate your longstanding commitment to Pennsylvania’s public schools and students. Thank you.

As you prepare your budget, we urge you to consider, once again, a substantial increase in new public education funding. We urge you to request more than $1.5 billion in new funding for the 2022-23 school year toward closing the $4.6 billion school funding-adequacy gap.

Continued increases of this magnitude must occur if the Commonwealth is ever to achieve the goal of delivering high-quality educational opportunities for every Pennsylvania student.

While the General Assembly has increased education funding over the past few years, the increases have not been enough to cover the $6.7 billion in mandated costs school districts have incurred over the last decade. With each passing year, we get further from our goals of adequacy and equity and allow far too many students to languish in schools that are not sufficiently funded to meet their needs.

Specifically, we urge you to add $1 billion to the Basic Education Funding (BEF) formula. This will more than double the amount of funding that is distributed through the bipartisan commission formula.

We also recommend a $300 million increase in the Level Up supplement, an approach you used last year to direct additional funds to the 100 districts most in need, districts that serve a disproportionate number of Pennsylvania’s Black and Latinx students. As you know, Level Up is an effective approach to reduce funding gaps and more equitably distribute BEF funds.

In short, we support significantly growing the state contribution to funding for schools.

There is a growing need for special education services for Pennsylvania students, and school districts are struggling to meet that need with locally raised funds. We recommend a $200 million increase in special education funding so districts can better serve students and confirm the Commonwealth’s commitment to students with disabilities.

Lastly, you have made a sustained commitment to better align career and technical programs to workforce needs and make career education more available to students. We urge a $25 million increase to the CTE [Career and Technical Education] line item to build on this success.

We are confident that the Commonwealth has the funding to meet its commitment. State tax revenue grew well beyond estimate in the 2020-21 fiscal year and is doing the same in the current fiscal year. The state has more than $7 billion in unspent American Rescue Plan funds. Making this investment now will help the Commonwealth emerge from the pandemic stronger than ever, and create the building blocks for continued economic success.

An increase of $1.5 billion will not make our school funding system whole, but it will certainly help reduce funding inequities and give underserved students and students in low-wealth districts a better chance of success and a brighter future.

We pledge to work with you and members of the General Assembly to achieve a school funding system that makes us all proud and the envy of the nation.

Thank you for your consideration.

The PA Schools Work Campaign

PA Schools Work is a coalition of organizations from across Pennsylvania representing teachers and other educators; urban, suburban and rural communities; and parents and other community members working together to advocate for PA public schools, their students and the communities they serve. Find them at https://paschoolswork.org/.

Pennsylvania Schools Work, education funding, Pennsylvania education, Basic Education Funding, special education services

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