People of faith from across Pennsylvania gathered in the Capitol Rotunda this morning to launch an 100-day “Fast for Family Values.” Fasters across religious and county lines are calling on the Legislature to pass a moral budget with full public education funding.
March 23, 2015 | HARRISBUG, PA — Clergy and lay people from rural, urban, and suburban areas across Pennsylvania gathered in the Capitol Rotunda today to launch an 100-day fast calling for full school funding and a funding formula that undoes racial inequities in how Pennsylvania funds school districts.
People from various religious communities affiliated with POWER Philadelphia in Southeastern PA, POWER Northeast in the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network in Pittsburgh, and other faith-based organizations throughout the state have committed to go without food for a day or more from today until June 30 to draw attention to the continued crisis of Pennsylvania’s underfunded schools.
“We applaud the Governor’s proposed boost to education next year but unfortunately it is not enough. It’s time to end educational apartheid in Pennsylvania,” said Rev Micah Sims, pastor of Bethel A.M.E. in Harrisburg. “We are fasting because we want our legislators to know that there are people in Pennsylvania who will not live with having the most unfairly funded schools in the country.”
Recently, federal data showed that the gap in state spending on education between Pennsylvania’s poorest and richest districts far exceeds that of any other state. According to the fasters, Governor Wolf’s proposed budget provides only a fraction of what is needed to fully fund schools next year and does little to fix racial disparities in how funds are distributed. The Fast for Family Values seeks to challenge legislators from all parts of the states to be bolder in pushing for more revenue for schools through a fair tax system.
“We will not have enough revenue in our commonwealth to give all of Pennsylvania’s children a quality education until our lawmakers are bold enough to dramatically transform our tax system so that the wealthy and corporations are paying their fair share,” said Bishop Dwayne Royster, Executive Director of POWER Philadelphia, a movement of religious communities working for social and economic justice in Southeastern PA.
Currently, poor and middle class communities pay more share of their income in taxes than the wealthiest Pennsylvania, and business have avoided paying billions in corporate taxes over decades. Funding forschools, instead, has often come off the backs of families who are already struggling.
“Fasting in our religious traditions is meant to help clarify what’s essential. Over the next 100 days, our fast is an effort to help the Legislature focus on what’s essential: Pennsylvania’s future through our kids,” Rabbi David Ackerman of Congregation Beth Am Israel in Penn Valley.
To launch the fast Rabbi Melody Davis of Temple Covenant of Peace in Easton, PA blew a shofar, an ancient instrument used in the Jewish tradition to wake up the community to God’s call. Fasters held signs saying what they mean by family values, including safe communities, fully funded schools, and economic dignity for all.
“Often ‘family values’ has had a meaning that excludes people. We are people of faith who believe family values means that our state prioritizes opportunities for our families and quality education for our children,” said Sheila Armstrong, a parent at Spring Garden Elementary School in Philadelphia and a leader with POWER Philadelphia. “Until our legislators are doing a ‘Die-in’ on the Capitol floor, we won’t believe they are doing enough to fight for our kids. This is not a game–it’s our children’s lives.”
“We are a part of this fast so our children will have the opportunity to catapult themselves, our commonwealth, and our nation to the forefront of the world stage,” said Rev. Richard L Freeman, Sr, President of Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network. “Equitable and fully funded education is a critical step in the attaining this objective.”
Participants in the fast lay full brown lunch bags near the capitol steps to symbolize their sacrifice over the next 100 days. To join the fast, participants from across the state should sign up atwww.faithinpa.org.
Rev. Gregory Edwards, Pastor of Resurrected Life Community Church in Allentown, said, “In this state, your zip code should not determine your future. When we don’t have a fully and fairly funded formula for public education, it means our legislators are saying they are OK with glaring racial inequities existing in public education. It means they are OK with our children being exiled to social and economic death. We need a fully, fairly funded formula for our schools, not tomorrow, but today.”
About POWER (Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild): POWER represents congregations from across the Philadelphia reigion, bringing people together across the lines of race, faith, income level and neighborhood — lines which have historically kept our city and state divided. POWER is nonpartisan and is not aligned explicitly or implicitly with any candidate or party. We do not endorse or support candidates foroffice. Learn more at www.powerphiladelphia.org