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PRESS RELEASE: POWER responds to signing of school funding formula bill

PRESS RELEASE: POWER responds to signing of school funding formula bill

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.

PHILADELPHIA  – As representatives of POWER, we offer the following statement in response to Governor Wolf’s signing into law of House Bill 1552 which adopts the Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding Commission’s (BEFC) funding formula:

We applaud the Governor and the General Assembly for implementing the Basic Education Funding Commission’s funding formula. This is a sound step toward achieving the adequate funding levels proposed by the Coalition for Fair Education Funding, a dedicated statewide coalition of education advocacy groups co-founded by POWER.  But the battle for full and fair funding is far from over.

For the past three years, POWER has been actively working to promote the adoption of a fully funded and fair formula for the distribution of education funds, urging lawmakers to push a policy agenda that prioritizes children and youth in Pennsylvania. HB 1552 is the beginning of removing politics from state school funding decisions.  The money that it distributes to school districts through the formula is based on objective factors such as student enrollment, the needs of the student population, and school district wealth and capacity to raise local revenues. Its enactment demonstrates what can be achieved when both parties work together for Pennsylvania’s students.

Although we celebrate this step in the right direction, we also acknowledge that the formula is only as good as the funding that flows through it.  Pennsylvania has by far the widest funding gap between wealthy and poor districts of any state in the country, and the state’s 36% share of education funding is nearly the lowest in the country.  POWER, in conjunction with allied organizations across Pennsylvania, is asking state lawmakers to invest at least a $400 million increase in basic education funding in the 2016 – 2017 state budget.  POWER further notes that HB 1552 directs only new increases in funding through the fair formula, leaving over 90% of funding distributed the same inequitable way as last year, including systematic racial bias.  As people of faith, we cannot accept permanently consigning our children of color to receive less than their fair share of funding compared to their white peers.  In future years we will advocate for changes in how the commission’s formula is implemented to accelerate the transition to equitable funding for all districts.

Bishop Dwayne Royster, Executive Director of POWER said “We are very proud of the work that the Campaign for Fair Education Funding has accomplished with the Governor and General Assembly to pass this funding formula. We are glad that it is balanced and equitable, but now we urge the state legislature to invest adequate funds through this formula to bring about real transformation in education access that the state of Pennsylvania desperately needs, especially for those who struggle the deepest.”

Harrisburg is in need of bold leadership from both legislative bodies. Across the Commonwealth children have suffered as the state continues to avoid the responsibility of providing adequate education funding. As people of faith and conscience, POWER views education funding as not just a political or financial issue, but a moral issue of the highest order. We will continue to work until every child in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania has access to quality public school education.

Contact: Beulah Osueke | | office (215) 232 – 7697