PA’s Education Budget Compromise Raises Some Money – But Racial & Income Disparities Continue
POWER, an interfaith organization consisting of over 60 congregations in the Greater Philadelphia area, responds to the passage of a permanent Pennsylvania school funding formula.
Last week, the PA legislature passed a fiscal plan to finance a state budget which assured Pennsylvania school districts that there would be money for schools in September. The $200 million increase in basic education funding and additional money for early childhood education and special education were praised and acknowledged as a compromise of what can be done when Democrats and Republicans work together.
But what else was compromised? Could it be the education of children from poor districts and students of color? As members of POWER, an Interfaith Movement, with clergy and lay members from more than 40 Philadelphia churches, synagogues and mosques and 15 suburban congregations who have been working on school funding for several years, we are disappointed by some things that this budget process DIDN’T do. The legislature chose to use a patchwork of questionable taxes and one time fixes rather than create a new tax plan that would provide adequate and predictable education funding. And, they continued a funding system that results in striking disparities between rich and poor districts and black vs white districts that have been acknowledged as among the worst in the nation.
The bi-partisan Basic Funding Commission worked together to create an excellent funding formula that could have fixed this problem. Instead, the legislature locked in the racist inequities by only applying the formula to new funding. School districts receiving more than their fair share of funding continue to be favored by the recent legislation, which guarantees that these districts get to keep and even increase their unfairly large school funding allocations, leaving districts like Philadelphia, Reading and Erie forever to get less than their fair share based on the formula.
While we are pleased that Philadelphia and other districts will be able to open in the fall with some additional funding, the PA legislature’s job is not done, and we will not be complacent until these racist inequities are acknowledged and addressed. These inequities reflect not merely a fiscal problem, but a moral crisis. As people of faith committed to non-violent social change, POWER sees dismantling all racist systems as necessary to achieve our vision of a beloved community.
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POWER (Philadelphians Organized to Witness Empower and Rebuild) is an interfaith organization committed to implementing systemic change for the betterment of Pennsylvania. We represent populace from across the Greater Philadelphia area, transcending borders across race, faith, income level, and neighborhood. Learn more at www.powerinterfaith.org