For nearly a decade, POWER Interfaith, Pennsylvania’s largest faith-based organizing movement with over 200 congregations of over 20 different faith traditions, has organized clergy congregations and leaders who have engaged in direct actions, rallied, marched, organized, and traveled across the state to bring attention to the dire need for educational equity for our students. We uphold that the Pennsylvania budget is a moral document reflective of those in power’s priorities and moral stance. While we welcome much of the governor’s first budget proposal, we are greatly disappointed.
In this moment, with the unprecedented multi-billion dollar surplus available to address deeply unjust education, funding disparities remain. Governor Shapiro’s $567M proposed increase for Basic Education Funding is a modest 7.8% increase that barely keeps pace with inflation. The governor knows full well that Pennsylvania has allowed school districts in the least wealthy areas of the state to languish.
Moreover, we remain disappointed that Governor Shapiro has failed to renew funding for the Level-Up funding, abandoning a vital program that aimed to provide for our students with the most need. Governor Shapiro affirmed the ruling of the Commonwealth Court judge that Pennsylvania’s school funding system is unconstitutional. We know that the quality of a student’s education should not be determined by their zip code, family income, or skin color.
We applaud the Governor’s commitment to reinvest the funding for the Whole-Home Repairs Bill. We call on the general assembly to renew and expand the program’s funding “to support and grow this initiative for years to come,” as stated by the Governor.
We celebrate the Governor’s call to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. We believe all workers deserve a living wage that meets their needs regardless of where they live. After 14 years of wage stagnation and decades of tireless organizing– it is time to end minimum wage preemption so local governments can set their own minimum wages.
We demand that the general assembly swiftly rectify the effects of decades of an unconstitutional education system, restore Level-Up funding with an addition of $400 Million, adopt $750 Million in new Basic Education Funding, and utilize the unprecedented near $12 Billion budget surpluses, including the rainy day fund to repair Toxic Schools as outlined by Senator Vince Hughes.
The legislature has until June 30th to negotiate and decide how much is spent on each issue. We must push for the policies that will create thriving communities, great schools, higher wages, safe and secure housing, and care for those with the most need throughout the Commonwealth.
We encourage all people of faith and moral courage to continue to put pressure on lawmakers to pass a moral budget. Over the next weeks, Pennsylvania lawmakers will begin negotiations that determine not only the legislature’s priorities but the quality of life for all who call Pennsylvania home.