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PRESS RELEASE: POWER Responds to Tentative Budget Deal

By November 12, 2015January 15th, 2016No Comments


POWER, an interfaith organization in Philadelphia, responds to details of a new, tentative education budget announced earlier this week.

Contact: | office: (215) 232-7697

Philadelphia, PA – As representatives of POWER, we offer the following response in learning of details for the tentative framework of a comprehensive budget agreement announced earlier this week.

Over the last five months elected officials in Harrisburg have pushed for policy agendas that continue to prioritize corporations over children and youth in Pennsylvania. Since July we’ve seen acts of political theater up until now with the most recent budget deal. While elected officials in Harrisburg have been playing cat and mouse, school districts across the commonwealth have been faced with difficult decisions – withholding payments to charter schools; contemplating a temporary shut-down; and borrowing 100s of millions of dollars to make payroll and keep the lights on.

Currently negotiations have started up again. This most recent deal includes $350 million in new basic education spending this year (and perhaps only $200 million the following year) funded by a 1.25% increase in a regressive sales tax. In Philadelphia, the sales tax would rise to 9.25%. The Governor’s original budget proposal included a $410 million increase in basic education funding in each of the next two years, and even that would have left most districts far below adequate funding. In response to hearing of the new tentative budget, David Mosenkis, Co-Chair of POWER’s Education Strategy Team, commented “It is extremely disappointing that this deal shortchanges the needs of our children while worsening our state’s regressive tax system to even further favor corporations and the rich over poor and middle class families.”

This tentative budget deal has shown that the cost of doing business continues to bear down on poor and working families. We as people of faith are deeply disappointed in the lack of bold leadership in Harrisburg on both sides of the aisle. Across the commonwealth, homeowners have seen property taxes rise as the state continues to avoid its responsibility to provide adequate funding for education; students have attended under-resourced schools with a cloud of uncertainty about the future; and now individuals will be asked to pay more for necessary goods. Our elected officials seem content to settle for underfunded schools while increasing the tax burden on the poor. Pennsylvania has the largest gap between funding for wealthy and poor districts and one of the most regressive tax policies as well, and the current deal seems poised to make matters even worse.

“I’m disappointed in this proposal to the point of disgust. This proposed budget does not help the people I represent. Now prices are going to go up because of the increased sales tax and my community is already struggling to pay for stuff. Where are we supposed to get this money from?” Sheila Armstrong Philadelphia parent and Co-Chair of POWER’s Education Strategy Team said, “I’m angry because from my community perspective we wonder ‘Who in Harrisburg’s Leadership is fighting for the people in my community?’”

The education funding in the proposed deal fails to even fully restore the cuts made under the Corbett administration, and makes little progress toward the adequate funding levels proposed by the Coalition for Fair Education Funding. There is no mention of addressing the racial bias in Pennsylvania’s current education funding, nor of implementing the BEF commission funding formula.

We are deeply troubled by the regressive nature of this deal and how it will disproportionately hurt disadvantaged Pennsylvanians. As much as we desperately need income for Philadelphia schools, we must not ask low income people to disproportionately fund our education system.

We urge that members of both legislative bodies commit to a budget that will not break the backs of working families but allow school districts to flourish by asking corporations to pay their fair share.

Contact: | office: (215) 232-7697