COLLEGEVILLE, PA — State Rep. Joe Ciresi hosted a news conference Thursday featuring lawmakers from across the region and political parties at Perkiomen Valley High School, calling for full enactment of the state’s fair-funding formula for school districts across Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania’s so-called fair funding formula was passed in 2016 to ensure that each district receives state funding based on school and community needs. Despite its passage five years ago and implementation for new funding, inequitable education funding remains a significant issue in Pennsylvania due the formula ignoring old levels of funding.
As it is now, Pennsylvania still only ranks 45th for the levels at which it funds its school districts from the state’s General Fund budget.
Ciresi said a revenue surplus this year presents an opportunity for change. The following people participated in the discussion. A video of the event can be found here. In addition to those speaking, the crowd gathered in support of fair funding also included school superintendents, school board members and education advocates.
- State Rep. Joe Ciresi, D-Montgomery
- Perkiomen Valley School District Superintendent Barbara Russell
- State Rep. Joe Webster, D-Montgomery
- Perkiomen Valley School Director Sara Evans-Brockett
- Pottstown School Director Laura Johnson
- Norristown Area School District Superintendent Christopher Dormer
- State Rep. Dan Williams, D-Chester
- Bethlehem Area School Director Karen Beck Pooley
- State Rep. Manny Guzman, D-Berks
- State Rep. Tracy Pennycuick, R-Montgomery
- Spring-Ford Area School Director Tom DiBello
- Central Dauphin School Director Beth Sviben
“The way we fund education has been harming our schools and raising our property taxes for decades. This year our state budget surplus gives us an opportunity to change that, and we can afford to fully implement our fair funding formula without hurting any school district or raising taxes,” Ciresi said. “By now it’s so overdue, that we can’t afford not to – this month, we need to fairly and adequately fund education statewide.”
“Our underfunded and inequitable school system holds back many of our kids from reaching their full potential. We need to make increased, sustained, more equitable investments in our schools so that all our children have the same high quality educational opportunities to develop themselves and have better lives,” Williams said. “This economic injustice is clear. Currently, two students living just one block apart could have one student go back to school this fall with a MacBook while the other might have to share a math book.
“This injustice is and will continue to negatively impact PA’s economy and society if not addressed. Let’s stop underfunding our school system and use the budget surplus to level the playing field for our kids.”
“A solid education – for every kid regardless of Zipcode – will unlock a lifetime of success, but Pennsylvania must do a better job sharing the keys with everyone,” Guzman said. “Reading is one of the most underfunded school districts in the commonwealth, and we are here to say that the state has the power to change that. This month if they would commit to it.
“Fair funding means that Reading would get $97 million more just by fully enacting the formula to include all of the state dollars earmarked for schools in the commonwealth – not just so-called ‘new money.’ That’s money for more teachers to reduce class size, computers for students to learn at home when needed, improve the curriculum with better and more books – and it wouldn’t even hike our local taxes.”
“In too many instances, state government settles for the short-term fix without looking further down the road,” Pennycuick said. “Education is an investment with long-term consequences, the potential return being well-educated adults who contribute positively to our society and can solve their generation’s problems. Now is not the time to shortchange our communities.”
“The opportunity for fair funding this budget season is an opportunity for Pennsylvania, for school districts and, most of all, for individual students,” Webster said. “Let’s invest in the most precious and important resource we have: our children.
“The Fair Funding Formula should provide opportunities for every student in every district, from wealthy suburbs to city schools to rural communities. All students deserve the same resources and support, and taxpayers need the commonwealth to do its fair share.”
While Pennsylvania enacted a Fair Funding Formula in 2016, the way the state funds education five years later remains broken, the lawmakers said, because the state barely uses the fair funding formulates that it created, sending just 11% of basic education and 13.6% of special education dollars through the formula.
In 2016, the General Assembly established the student-weighted Basic Education Funding formula to direct money to school districts based on certain factors that include student enrollment, student population needs, wealth of the school district and more. Similarly, the Special Education Funding Formula, established in 2014-15, directs state dollars to districts that have the greatest need for additional resources based on the cost of each special education student. Each formula allows districts to have more transparency and predictability on funding.
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