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POWER Study Shows Racial Bias in PA Public School Funding

By November 6, 2014January 15th, 2016No Comments

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, November 6, 2014

Contact: Margaret Ernst, 215.232.7697 (office) 609.577.6430 (cell)

Philadelphia, PA. — A new study conducted by POWER confirms what many have suspected about public education in Pennsylvania: state funding of public schools has a strong correlation to the racial makeup of school districts.

The analysis, available on the POWER website, was conducted by David Mosenkis – a data analyst by profession and a volunteer with POWER through his synagogue Germantown Jewish Centre. An article highlighting Mosenkis’ analysis with support from other sources was published today by The Philadelphia Public School Notebook.

Mosenkis’ study of Pennsylvania’s funding of school districts for the 2014-2015 school year shows there is an evident racial bias in the distribution of funds based on the number of students of color versus white students. According to the study, “An analysis of enrollment, demographics, and basic education funding of Pennsylvania’s 501 public school districts reveals dramatically higher per-student funding in districts with predominantly white populations compared to economically similar districts with more racial diversity.” Click here for charts that demonstrate this point.

“David’s study shows us through hard and fast data there there is institutionalized racism in Pennsylvania’s funding of public schools. Many of us know this from experience, but it helps us make the important case that the need for a funding formula is not just a matter of economic inequality but of racial justice. The vast majority of Pennsylvania’s school districts are underfunded, including mostly white ones. But the fact that even the crumbs are so unjustly divided along race lines is abominable,” said Bishop Dwayne Royster, POWER’s Executive Director.

Pennsylvania is one of just three states without a funding formula that takes essential criteria like poverty, English-language learners, and the ability of a district to leverage local money into account when distributing state funding for schools. Since 2012, POWER has been building grassroots support for a new funding formula, which was a key issue in the recent race for Governor. POWER is currently working towards this goal with a set of diverse allies as part of the Campaign for Fair Education Funding, a broad-based, statewide coalition that includes labor, business, and education advocacy groups in addition to faith-based organizations.

“People can argue in lots of ways about what’s fair and what’s important to include in a funding formula. But no matter how people come down on those issues, I think we can all agree that any system that ends up with the systematic discrimination of funding based on racial makeup of the student body that we currently have is unacceptable,” said Mosenkis.

Within the past 2 months, POWER held more than 6,000 live person-to-person conversations about state education funding while engaging voters about the election and plans to re-engage these voters in the legislative process around a funding formula in 2015. The state’s Basic Education Funding Commission has been meeting since August to study how state funds should be distributed and will make recommendations to the legislature by June. The next meeting will be held in two parts on November 18th and 19th in Philadelphia.

About POWER: POWER represents congregations from across the Philadelphia region, 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 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

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