Education

POWER is organizing and mobilizing members of the Pennsylvania faith community to confront widespread, systemic and educational inequality throughout the state.

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POWER is independently financed.  We operate with dues from member congregations, grants from charitable and faith-based foundations, grassroots fund raising and contributions from people like you who care about our city and want to see change.  As a matter of principle, POWER takes no financial support from government entities.

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  • Helping create and manage our growing mailing list through data entry work
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We welcome a conversation with you about pressures impacting your congregation and community and how faith-based community organizing can help you respond. We welcome a conversation about how POWER is equipping congregations across the city to play a more powerful role in shaping policies that effect families, neighborhoods, and our city.

Give us a call at 215-232-7697 or email us at info@powerphiladelphia.org and we’ll set up a time to talk.

We are looking forward to the conversation.

Education: Full, Fair Funding

Vision and Approach:

POWER believes that all children deserve great schools, regardless of race, ethnicity or income. POWER is organizing and mobilizing members of the Pennsylvania faith community to confront widespread, systemic and educational inequality in Philadelphia and throughout the state.

As people of faith, we refuse to accept this discrimination. Along with calls, letters and emails sent to our local, state and congressional representatives, we are joining with advocates and groups and taking our fair funding demands directly to officials in the capitol building in Harrisburg and to their offices in districts in and around Philadelphia. Here in Philadelphia, the state’s largest school district, we continue to fight for local control of our schools that reflects the voices and needs of parents, students, teachers and community members.

The Situation:

Today, while some Pennsylvania students go to public schools that are among the best in the nation, too many of our students lack access to quality education. This inequity is caused in great part by inadequate state funding, which covers only 35% of total costs (compared to 50% on average in states around the country). This leaves local districts to make up the rest and places low-income districts at a disadvantage.

Further, research conducted by POWER has revealed deep and persistent racial disparities in the way the state’s Basic Education Funding is distributed to the 500 school districts across Pennsylvania.  A Fair Funding Formula passed in 2016 was a small step in the right direction, but this only affected a sliver of total education spending in the state. In 2017-18, on average, districts with significant numbers of children of color continue to receive $2,100 per student less than their fair share according to the formula, while predominantly white districts receive $2,100 more than their fair share. Too many of our state legislators do not acknowledge this issue, refusing to take steps towards creating a more just system.

Milestones and Victories:

In 2012 POWER’s Leadership Assembly ratified an organizing agenda that included launching a campaign to push for policies that would create great schools throughout the Commonwealth. During 2013 and 2014, listening and organizing efforts led to the development of a Fair Funding Campaign, designed to create greater equity in how state funds are applied across all 500 districts.

In 2014, POWER fought for public access to the hearings of the Basic Education Funding Commission. This enabled community members to have a say in a new formula for funding public schools, exposing systemic racial inequities in the existing approach. In June 2015, POWER amplified this effort with a “Moral Takeover of Harrisburg,” 10 days of prophetic action around educational equity that mobilized POWER clergy and congregations to travel to Harrisburg and take sustained direct action on behalf of PA’s children.

In 2015 and 2016 POWER created and began a Fair Funding Campaign to call to attention the racial disparity in the state’s education funding. Through this effort, POWER helped to drive the Basic Education Funding Commission to create a bi-partisan, Fair Funding Formula, which was signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf in June 2016.

Throughout this period, POWER, as part of a larger Philadelphia-wide coalition, fought tirelessly to return local governance to our city’s schools. Local control was ultimately approved in December 2017 by the State Commissioner of Education.

Campaign Goals and Strategies:

 

POWER’s education work is currently centered around two important bodies of work:

Seeking Local Control of Philadelphia Schools
During the last several years, POWER has been active in Our City, Our Schools (OCOS), the broad-based coalition that successfully fought to dissolve the School Reform Commission in 2017 and return the Philadelphia School District to local control. POWER continues to work as a leading member of this coalition to ensure that the transition to local governance will reflect the diverse voices of our constituents, notably parents, students, teachers and community members.

Today, POWER is promoting the concept of a People’s Board and working to create a pathway to an elected Board of Education for our school district. Both City Council and the Mayor’s office have recognized OCOS and POWER as key players in this work and are requesting meetings with us on a regular basis. Along with OCOS, POWER members also continue to fight for innovative solutions that will increase local funding for our schools.

We believe this effort will help put us on a path to ensuring that the Philadelphia school system provides ALL of the children of our city with a high-quality education.

Campaign for Fair and Adequate School Funding
Following the 2016 passage of the Fair Funding Formula, POWER’s education strategy moved to advocating for adequate funding and ensuring that more of the state’s educational budget is distributed through the formula. Currently, the Fair Funding formula is only used for new money, just 7.5% of the state basic education spending. The lion’s share of school support continues to be allocated unfairly, resulting in persistent disparities between districts with larger numbers of students of color and predominantly white districts across the state.

This statewide campaign—including POWER Philadelphia, Metro and Central State—seeks to achieve quality education for ALL Pennsylvania children. This effort currently includes:

  • Increasing public awareness of the inequities and racial bias in public school funding and its impact on children and families;
  • Organizing key constituents and stakeholders including clergy and congregations in affected communities across the state and supporting them to influence their legislators;
  • Collecting and amplifying stories that highlight the educational inequities in key cities throughout Pennsylvania (e.g., York, Reading, Pottstown, Harrisburg, Lancaster and others) where students (and their families and communities) must struggle with insufficient resources every day; and
  • Evaluating alternative funding strategies that will alleviate the current disparate and inadequate funding and promoting a combination of legislative and budgetary methods that will raise support for districts that are underfunded and suffer racial disparities.