This month Margo Shall of the POWER Education Team co-wrote this open letter from educators at local colleges and universities working in Teacher Preparation Programs. Their aim? Urge Pennsylvania legislators to pass Governor Wolf’s budget, which includes full use of the Fair Funding Formula for Basic Education Funding. Here’s what they wrote below in support of education equity!
Open Letter Urging the General Assembly to Enact Gov. Wolf’s 2021 State Budget Proposal for K-12 Education Funding
To the General Assembly,
We, members of the Teacher Education Alliance and representatives of Pre-Service Teacher Education in Southeastern Pennsylvania, urge the General Assembly to enact Governor Wolf’s budget for PA Education funding. We know that students in Philadelphia, compared with their peers outside of the city, are receiving far less funding for their education. As educators, we cannot accept this blatant inequity.
All of Pennsylvania’s more than 1.7 million public school students deserve the highest quality education, but many students are receiving a less adequate education. The impact of underfunding is clear. In our region of Southeastern Pennsylvania, students in the Philadelphia School District contend daily with toxic buildings, large class sizes, and regular cuts in school staff, whereas their peers right outside of the city are not asked to accept these same inadequate conditions.
The General Assembly already enacted a student-weighted Fair Funding Formula (Act 35 of 2016) to distribute PA State Basic Education Funding equitably to all PA school districts. However, they applied the formula only to increases in state funding, thereby continuing a “Hold Harmful” policy that maintains great disparities between school districts. The “Hold Harmful” policy perpetuates a pattern of systemic racial disparity. Districts educating more Black and Latinx students receive less state funding than equally needy districts serving more white students. The distribution of 100% of the Basic Education Funding through the Fair Funding Formula would eliminate those racial disparities.
The 2021 State budget proposed by Governor Wolf would begin by distributing all of Pennsylvania’s current K-12 Basic Education Funding through the Fair Funding Formula. Philadelphia would get 1.42 billion in Basic Education Funding in Wolf’s proposed budget. Philadelphia’s School District was short changed by over $400 million in state funding this year, and over $2B over the last 6 years compared to its fair share under the state’s funding formula. This is money that young people deserve to have for their education. It’s funding that their peers right outside of the city have come to expect.
In the past, claims of “hold harmless” have been made to try to stop this needed redistribution of Education funding. Gov. Wolf’s budget includes a special supplement to ensure that no district would experience a decrease in funding. This additional $1.15B, beyond the $6.46 Billion of Basic Education Funding distributed through the Fair Funding Formula (FFF), means that the state’s long standing “hold harmless” policy would remain in effect.
Students in our teacher preparation programs are eager to enter the teaching profession as the next generation of teachers. However, during their practice teaching in Philadelphia and the city’s suburbs, they are regularly confronted by the disturbing and inexcusable disparities in school resourcing. Equity in school funding is a minimum standard for promoting healthy school communities and a healthy teaching profession.
As Research for Action data shows, “segregation and educational inequity are harmful to students and weaken school systems. Yet 62 years after Brown v. Board of Education rendered the doctrine of “separate but equal” unconstitutional, it has been well-documented that Pennsylvania schools are among the most deeply segregated and inequitably funded in the nation.” We cannot in good professional conscience accept the racial inequities that the state imposes. We cannot welcome pre-service teachers into an education system as inexcusably inequitable as PA. We call on the General Assembly to support Governor Wolf’s proposed budget, and move our state closer to the equitable funding that students deserve.
Margo Schall, Bryn Mawr & Haverford College Education Program, Program Coordinator
Alice Lesnick, Bryn Mawr & Haverford College Education Program, Director
Alison Cook-Sather, Bryn Mawr & Haverford College Education Program, Mary Katharine Woodworth Professor of Education
Lisa Smulyan, Henry C. and Charlotte Turner Professor of Educational Studies, Swarthmore College
Roseann Liu, Swarthmore College, Visiting Assistant Professor
Catherine Dunn, Swarthmore College, Field Program Coordinator
Kelly Gavin Zuckerman, Bryn Mawr & Haverford College Education Program, Lecturer
Rochelle Peterson-Ansari, La Salle University Education Department, Placements and Partnerships
Edwin Mayorga, Swarthmore College, Associate Professor
Chanelle Wilson, Bryn Mawr & Haverford College Education Program, Assistant Professor of Education
Diane Anderson, Associate Professor & Chair, Educational Studies, Swarthmore College
Jen Bradley, Visiting Assistant Professor, Swarthmore College
Eric Hartman, Executive Director, Center for Peace and Global Citizenship, Haverford College
Kristen Goessling, Assistant Professor, Human Development & Family Studies, Penn State Brandywine
Sonia M. Rosen, Lecturer, University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education
Jerusha O. Conner, Professor of Education, Villanova University
Christa S. Bialka, Associate Professor of Education, Villanova University
Helen K. Lafferty, College Professor of the Liberal Arts and Sciences, Villanova University
Edward Garcia Fierros, Associate Professor of Education, Villanova University
Krista Malott, Associate Professor of Counselor Education, Villanova University
Jennifer Carangi, Field Placement Coordinator, Villanova University
Stacey Havlik, Associate Professor of Counselor Education, Villanova University
Rachel Skrlac Lo, Assistant Professor of Education, Villanova University
Qrescent Mali Mason, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Haverford College
Madora Soutter, Assistant Professor of Education, Villanova University