***FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE***
July 15, 2015
A new report shows that 49 of out of Pennsylvania’s 50 State Senate Districts have school districts that are not getting their fair share of state education dollars.
The data analysis demonstrates how unfair and underfunded public education is a statewide problem that spans rural, urban, and suburban areas, and proves that nearly every Senate district will benefit from the application of a fair funding formula. However, lawmakers in Harrisburg have largely gone home for the summer without finishing a budget that addresses school funding and current inequities in the funding system.
Having led a “Moral Takeover” of the State Capitol in June, faith communities across the state have showed major concern over the problem, which they say is an urgent moral crisis.
Philadelphia, PA – Pennsylvania’s school funding crisis has often been discussed as if it is just an urban problem or a “Philadelphia” problem. But a new report shows that 49 out of all 50 State Senate districts have school districts that are getting less than their fair share of state funds.
The data analysis, conducted by Mt. Airy-based researcher David Mosenkis, a volunteer leader with the interfaith social justice organization POWER (Philadelphians Organized the Witness, Empower and Rebuild), shows every school district that would have gotten more state money if this past year’s education funds had been distributed according to the fair formula proposed by the bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission rather than the current, irrational actual distribution. It reveals that school districts in 49 of the state’s Senate Districts would benefit from the application of the proposed formula.
Upon releasing the report, POWER’s leaders emphasized the urgency of lawmakers passing a budget with a full investment in public education and the application of a fair formula. In late June, decisions over the state budget were postponed after Governor Wolf vetoed a budget passed by the Senate and House of Representatives that did almost nothing to reinvest in public education after years of dramatic cuts that have hurt students and schools statewide.
Bishop Dwayne Royster, POWER’s Executive Director said, “This new report is clear evidence that Pennsylvania’s school funding crisis is deep and wide, and critical to the livelihoods of Pennsylvanians in every part of our state across our many differences. It is a moral travesty that we still do not have a state budget that fully and fairly funds schools to solve this problem once and for all.”
Pennsylvania has the been the subject of national attention due to having the widest funding gap between rich and poor school districts in the country, with disparities far surpassing other states. The state is currently one of just three states without a formula to distribute state education dollars in a fair manner. Not only that, cuts to public education over the past 5 years have resulted in grave consequences in school districts in every part of the state, including cutting programs, increasing class sizes, and eliminating basic services such as school nurses, cleaning, and guidance counselors.
Sheila Armstrong, a parent from Philadelphia who recently fasted for 10 days with her family on Pennsylvania’s Capitol steps in a faith-based “Moral Takeover” led by POWER said, “Right now, as our lawmakers are on summer vacation without having finished the budget, principals, teachers, and parents across the state are bracing for yet another school year when we can barely keep the lights on and there are not sufficient resources to provide our kids with the quality education they deserve. It is the Governor’s and Legislature’s moral and constitutional responsibility to do their jobs and fix this. We want Pennsylvania to be on course to being #1 in investing in schools, not #1 in unfair funding.”
Mosenkis was also responsible for a groundbreaking report last fall that exposed racial bias in the current school funding system, which gave lawmakers crucial information to defining a new and equitable funding formula. The bi-partisan Basic Education Funding Commission has recommended a new formula, which POWER supports, that addresses economic disparities and racial bias. However, POWER has emphasized that in order to address current inequities in the system, it is essential to substantially increase funding and apply the formula to a fully funded education budget. The Campaign for Fair Education Funding, of which POWER is a founding member, has said that an increase of $3.6 billion is needed to adequately fund districts across the state.
Mosenkis said, “The new funding formula gives an unequivocal definition of what fair funding is. Besides being the moral thing to do, it turns out that nearly every elected official will be helping students in their own districts if we were to substantially increase funding and apply the formula to all basic education dollars, not just to small increases.”
About POWER: POWER (Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild) represents congregations from across the Philadelphia region, bringing people together across the lines of race, faith, income level and neighborhood — lines that have historically kept our city and state divided. POWER is committed to the work of bringing about justice here and now and seeks to exercise power in the public arena by strengthening and mobilizing our networks, so that the needs and priorities of all Philadelphians are reflected in the systems and policies that shape our city. POWER is nonpartisan and is not aligned explicitly or implicitly with any candidate or party. We do not endorse or support candidates for office. Learn more at www.powerphiladelphia.org.