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Systemic Racial Bias in Latest Pennsylvania School Funding

By August 25, 2016May 11th, 2018No Comments

Systemic Racial Bias in Latest Pennsylvania School Funding

A new report reveals that recently passed education funding legislation guarantees that the state will continue to exhibit clear and dramatic racial bias in its funding of school districts.

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Philadelphia, PA. — A new study conducted by POWER confirms the education funding bill recently signed into law by Governor Wolf guarantees that school districts will continue to have huge inequities in their state funding levels, locking in systemic racial bias. Although the new formula is designed to ease inequities by recognizing that districts face different challenges depending on student demographics and other geographic and economic factors, the analysis, conducted by David Mosenkis, a data scientist by profession and a volunteer with POWER through his synagogue Germantown Jewish Centre, reveals that the formula’s application to new monies alone locks in the disparities that were created through decades of non-formula-based distributions. The report reveals that the state gives the whitest districts nearly $2,000 per student more than the formula recommends, and the least white districts nearly $2,000 less for each student. An article highlighting Mosenkis’ analysis with support from other sources was published yesterday by NewsWorks.

Mosenkis’ study of Pennsylvania’s funding of school districts for the 2016-2017 school year shows there is still a dramatic racial bias in the distribution of funds despite recent efforts to implement a funding formula to distribute monies fairly amongst districts. According to the study, “On average, the whitest districts get thousands of dollars more than their fair share for each student, while the least white districts get thousands less for each student than their fair share, according to the formula.” Click here for charts that demonstrate this point.

“The issue of economic disparities in education is not a new phenomenon, anyone who is black or poor in America knows that. I am convinced that our state still does not understand that equal funding for unequal needs is not equality.” said Pastor Melanie DeBose, POWER’s Interim Co-Executive Director.

Since 2012, POWER has been building grassroots support for a new funding formula, which was a key issue in Governor Wolf’s election race. POWER acknowledges that the newly passed funding legislation is a positive step in the right direction, but the distribution to new monies alone is a significant miss that will continue to shortchange hundreds of thousands of public school students.

According to the study, “Pennsylvania has a formula that defines the most equitable way to distribute state Basic Education Funding (BEF) among its 500 districts. [But] by applying the formula only to education dollars in excess of the 2014-15 budget, recent legislation locks in systematic racial discrimination in the distribution of state funds. Even if the overall BEF budget increases in future years, current law prescribes that the whitest districts continue to receive thousands of dollars per student more than their fair share, while the least white districts receive thousands per student less than their fair share. This systematic bias will remain in place in perpetuity until the law is changed.”

“Instead of stopping or reversing the inequitable funding of the past, the state has chosen to enshrine the pattern of systematic racial bias into its future school funding,” said Mosenkis.

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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