Harrisburg PA – This week, POWER Interfaith gathered across the state to urge legislators to pass Governor Wolf’s budget. That proposal would have begun to rectify the abhorrent funding disparities that exist throughout our education system.
For nearly a decade, POWER clergy and congregations have engaged in direct action, rallied, marched, organized, and traveled across the Commonwealth to bring attention to the dire need for educational equity for PA’s students. This week we held five actions across the Commonwealth, with one resulting in 14 of us being detained alongside Philadelphia City Councilmember Helen Gym and all banned from the Capitol for the remainder of the budget session.
The budget allots $272 million for education funding, $30 million in new pre-K funding, and $50 million in new special education funding, but a huge shortfall remains. PA legislators have deprioritized the children of this state, and especially students of color, yet again.
This budget does include money for the Level Up program, which provides financial resources to the 100 most underfunded school districts. However, it is not nearly enough. The Level Up funding is a stair step and is deeply inadequate to address the widening inequalities in funding throughout our Commonwealth.
We are deeply disappointed by this failure of leadership. Lawmakers have failed to recognize the impacts of systemic racism on the distribution of resources to school districts throughout the state. The children of this state will be the inheritors of our collective care or of political negligence. When the holders of the state’s purse strings refuse to invest in the lives of children, we must call that the flagrant immorality that it is.
There is a nearly $10 Billion surplus in the state coffers this year, enough that with sufficient political will, the equity and adequacy we fought for could have been passed without needing to raise taxes a single dollar. Budgets are moral documents, and we must call this budget, which fails to acknowledge the sacredness of our children, what it is: immoral and cowardly.