Education

Take Action to Ensure BIPOC Students Get Equitable COVID Relief in PA

By January 13, 2021 No Comments

POWER Education Justice Campaign

THE NEW FEDERAL COVID RELIEF BILL CONTAINS SIGNIFICANT FUNDING FOR SCHOOLS. THIS TIME WE MUST ENSURE THAT PA SCHOOLS SERVING CHILDREN OF COLOR GET THEIR FAIR SHARE OF FEDERAL EDUCATION DOLLARS.

On Sunday night, Dec. 28, many Americans breathed a sigh of relief when they learned that President Trump had signed the second major COVID relief package. For educators, parents and children from school districts all over America, that means a desperately needed influx of financial help for schools struggling to provide educational, social and emotional resources to kids and families during the pandemic. But there is reason to be concerned that, in Pennsylvania, the children that need it most may not see their fair share of the funding.

In early 2020, the first major US federal Covid relief package, known as the CARES Act, directed most of the K-12 school aid to schools with the highest poverty. This makes sense because the need is greater in these districts. However, the PA State Legislature and Gov. Wolf had discretion in how to distribute some of this funding, approximately $175 million. They sent a fixed amount to each school district regardless of size and a small amount (about $67) per student regardless of poverty or need. This allocation method disadvantaged large districts because they received the same “fixed” amount as much smaller districts. High poverty school districts were also not focused on in the allocation of the discretionary funds. Several statistics expose the inequity and unfairness of this distribution method.

One set of statistics in particular exposes the racial inequity in the distribution of these emergency funds. A Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center analysis shows that PA school districts with the largest shares of Black or Hispanic students got substantially less dollars per student than districts with the lowest concentrations of Black or Hispanic students.
Once again there is US federal Covid relief education funding coming to PA. This time our State Legislature and Gov. Wolf may have the discretion to distribute, approximately $215 million.

Our elected officials know that there is an existing statutory formula that can be used to equitably allocate these resources. The state enacted the Fair Funding Formula in 2016 as recommended by the bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission for a portion of the Educational Funding budget. However, each year they only use the formula for a very small percentage of the PA Basic Education Funding. They distribute most of our annual state Basic Education Funding with no regard to current poverty or district size. They did it again with the discretionary part of the first federal CARES Act relief fund. This practice is completely unacceptable and must not be repeated with any subsequent rounds of Covid relief funding.

POWER Interfaith condemns the inequitable way that our Pennsylvania legislature and Gov. Wolf distributed the discretionary portion of the first CARES Act Emergency Relief Fund. We demand that any future emergency funding be allocated to school districts based on poverty and size and to be free of racial bias. To do so, it is important that emergency relief funds be distributed equitably by using Pennsylvania’s existing Fair Funding Formula or Federal Title I guidelines.

 

Take Action

Call to Demand Fair Distribution of COVID Education Relief Funds

Instructions and Call Script for January 21-22, 2021

POWER’s Statewide Education Justice Team needs you to make 3 phone calls to make sure Pennsylvania’s Black and Hispanic students get their fair share of federal COVID relief education dollars.

In 2020, Pennsylvania chose to distribute $175 million of the Federal CARES Act funding to school districts using an inequitable formula that resulted in school districts with high poverty rates and the largest shares of Black or Hispanic students, getting substantially less money per student than whiter and wealthier districts. This is unacceptable and it must not happen again.

Instructions:

  • When: Make your phone calls on Thursday January 21 or Friday January 22.
  • Please call Governor Wolf and both YOUR State Representative and Senator
    • The main phone number for Gov. Wolf’s office is 717-787-2500. You will listen to a list of options. Choose “to be connected to Gov. Wolf’s office . . .”
    • For Pa Legislators’ office phone numbers here is a convenient link.
    • If you have a choice between your legislator’s Harrisburg office or her/his local district office phone, please choose the local district office for this call.
  • Your Credentials: Give your credentials explicitly, eg. “I am a member of the POWER Interfaith” ; “I am a member of ____ congregation”; “I am a concerned constituent; tax-payer in school district _____________”; etc. Feel free to mention one or more applicable credentials.

Call Script:

Hello, this is _____________________ (your name, residence address if asked, your credentials)

I am calling Gov. Wolf (or Rep. ___________ or Sen. ____________ or other) to urge her/him to ensure that the federal COVID education funding is equitably distributed to our school districts. We demand that she/he use a fair and equitable formula to distribute all the relief funds. Do not disadvantage school districts that have the highest share of our Black and Hispanic students. Base the distribution of all the relief funds using either on the Federal Title 1 or the PA Fair Funding Formula.

Thank you.

Thank you for making these 3 calls! Please share this information with members of your congregation.

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