We are POWER Interfaith, and we’re fighting for equity, justice, and opportunity in Pennsylvania – a battle to ensure that every child in our state has a chance to receive the world-class education they deserve.
For more than a decade, as chronicled by the publications linked below, POWER Interfaith has persisted – through the unwavering commitment of its members and allies and alongside students and educators – in the pursuit of education justice throughout Pennsylvania.
A Decade of Determined Organizing:
We, the members of POWER Interfaith, have been at the forefront of Pennsylvania’s unyielding pursuit of equitable and adequate school funding since 2012. Our dedication is evident in our remarkable achievements. We’ve rallied over 1,500 people at the Harrisburg State House. We’ve provided vital data analysis thanks to our member David Mosenkis, an expert and beacon advancing racial equity in the school funding case before the Commonwealth Court. We’ve lobbied members of the Generally Assembly, attended school board meetings, and mobilized. We’ve persevered shoulder-to-shoulder in acts of civil disobedience. And, most recently, we came together to hold People’s Hearings all across the state from Allentown, to Philadelphia, Lancaster, and Pottstown.
A Fight for Racial and Economic Equity:
For so many of our Commonwealth’s children, the education landscape has been defined by chronic underfunding, impacting not only kids, but their families and teachers. We’re acutely aware of the struggles faced by students, parents, and educators. Sylvia Witherspoon’s Philadelphia public school parent and social worker and Brenda Morales, an ESL teacher in an underfunded Lancaster school district, represent the countless individuals who confront unmet needs daily. Both women are part of the POWER Interfaith Statewide Education Justice Team.
Our aim in this fight was simple, yet powerfully clear: to amplify our voice and increase pressure on the Basic Education Funding Commission (BEFC) to fully and equitably fund public schools in Pennsylvania. POWER Interfaith’s People’s Hearings served as rallying cries for parents, students, teachers, and community members to share their concerns about the urgency of addressing long-term funding inequality in our public schools.
Illuminating Racial Inequity:
The fight for equitable education extends beyond financial challenges; it is a key element of POWER Interfaith’s ongoing struggle for racial justice. Christina Lengyel, a contributor for The Center Square, highlights the stark racial inequalities that persist in Pennsylvania’s public schools. Her report emphasizes that the state legislature’s inaction perpetuates disparities despite a constitutional mandate for equity. As Reverend Dr. Gregory J. Edwards, POWER Interfaith’s chief of staff, boldly declared during Lancaster’s BEFC hearing in September: “Whether because of neglect or malice, the state legislature’s failure to enact equitable funding has and continues to perpetuate racial inequality in Pennsylvania.”
Children in the majority of districts in the commonwealth – Black, Brown, white, poor, rural, urban – have needs left unmet by Pennsylvania’s unconstitutional status quo. PA’s inadequate funding has created some of the worst racial and economic education gaps in the country. The immoral fact remains that 85% of Pennsylvania’s school districts continue to grapple with the consequences of underfunding.
The Urgency of Fair Funding:
The gravity of inadequate funding cannot be emphasized enough. Pennsylvania’s education funding ranks among the lowest in the nation. As featured on BC 10 News, POWER Interfaith Statewide Education Team member Marlene Armato exemplifies the long-standing commitment of POWER Interfaith members to advocate for Pennsylvania’s public schools. Marlene’s 33-year career as a first-grade teacher at Limerick Elementary School is a testament to the dedication and passion that fuel this movement. In communities across the state, children’s needs are neglected by political leaders clutching the state’s pursestrings, as teachers like Marlene are left to bear the weight of systemic problems like childhood hunger and class overcrowding.
Equity: The Keystone of Our Communities:
The majority of districts in Pennsylvania, regardless of demographic makeup, grapple with the multitude of problems caused by ongoing underfunding. This funding deficiency has resulted in some of the most significant racial and economic education gaps in the country. POWER Interfaith’s vision is clear: Every child, regardless of the color of their skin, the language they speak at home, their family’s financial circumstances, or their geographic location, has the right to an excellent education.
A Call to Action:
Under the existing funding scheme for public schools in Pennsylvania, the students who need the most help are the ones receiving the least. This is a fundamental violation of justice, and Pennsylvania’s education funding system must change. Pennsylvania’s 15-member Basic Education Funding Commission will continue gathering testimony until November.
POWER Interfaith’s relentless pursuit of equitable and adequate school funding is a call to action for all Pennsylvanians. As advocates for our children and the future they will inherit and define, we must ensure that every child has the opportunity to receive a world-class education.
Together, we can rewrite the future for the next generation, eliminate the disparities that persist in our education system, and ensure that every child in Pennsylvania has access to quality education. This is the vision, the mission, and the call to action of POWER Interfaith.
POWER Interfaith presents three essential demands to the Pennsylvania General Assembly and Governor Shaprio:
Full Funding for Public Education: The General Assembly must invest millions more in the Basic Education Funding budget to provide every child with a world-class education, regardless of their zip code, family income, or race.
Equitable Funding Across the Commonwealth: We insist on equitable distribution of the Basic Education Funding budget across school districts. This is the only way to adequately address decades of racial and economic disparities harming communities.
A Timeline for Compliance: We demand that the Basic Education Funding Commission develop a solution for Pennsylvania’s unconstitutional school funding system. We call for a timeline to achieve compliance by the 2024-2025 school year, aiming to finally address the problems created by chronic underfunding of public schools in Black, brown, and lower-income neighborhoods.