Advocates presented BEFC members with a report card outlining criteria by which members will be held accountable, including identifying adequacy targets for all of PA’s 500 school districts
HARRISBURG – A passionate group of educators, administrators, parents, and students gathered on the steps of the Capitol today to rally and implore the Basic Education Funding Commission (BEFC) to issue a comprehensive final report. Speakers underscored the consequences of the large funding gap for rural, urban, and suburban districts across the state.
This rally took place five months after the BEFC had begun convening hearings across the state to hear testimony from educators and experts. Advocates emphasized that, following the groundbreaking Commonwealth Court decision in the school funding lawsuit, which declared the state’s funding system unconstitutional, the BEFC had a constitutional duty to go beyond mere tweaks to the Basic Education Funding Formula.
“In an under-funded district like ours we are being asked to make up for years of our students not having enough,” said Nicole Miller, a kindergarten teacher in the William Penn School District. “Now, a court has said we shouldn’t have to do that anymore. That decision arrived in February of 2023. But, I am still waiting for change. For what is FAIR and what is right.”
“I stand here today in a moment that is profoundly communal because chronic underfunding is not just happening to the schools I attended in Philadelphia, but to schools across Pennsylvania, and now we are all paying the price,” said Zakiya Stewart, a former educator in the School District of Philadelphia and the current Pennsylvania Policy Manager for Teach Plus.
Speakers presented the BEFC members with a report card as they come to their “final exam” where they will be graded on whether they write a report that includes: 1.) adequacy targets for all Pennsylvania school districts, 2.) a clear timeline for implementation, 3.) an outline of the acceptable state share of funding, and 4.) funding targets for important items beyond basic education funding, like Pre-K and facilities.
“The stakes are extremely high,” said Susan Spicka, Executive Director of Education Voters of PA. “This commission must do the work to ensure that the constitutional promise is a reality for all students in the Commonwealth. If the Basic Education Funding Commission does not return a report with a plan for each of these priorities it will fail in its constitutional responsibility.”
The rally served as a powerful showcase of statewide support. It drew participants from rural, suburban, and urban districts, highlighting the widespread demand for a constitutional school funding system. This included more than 120 students, parents, teachers, and community members who left early in the morning from the Woodland Hills, Penn Hills, McKeesport, Clairton, and Pittsburgh Public School Districts. The chants and signs displayed a collective determination to ensure that every public school student in Pennsylvania has equal access to a comprehensive, effective, and contemporary public education as guaranteed by the PA constitution.
“Our wealth should not impact our education. Our town or our city should not impact our education,” said Avery Henderson-Thomas, a 10th grader at Woodland Hills High School in Pittsburgh. “Please look at us and see how the treatment of different schools isn’t fair.”
The event featured passionate speeches from education advocates, superintendents, parents, and students, who shared personal stories and highlighted the urgent need for a fair and equitable funding system. The speakers emphasized the importance of calculating adequacy targets to provide the resources and support necessary for students to thrive academically and prepare for their future.
“In Weatherly Area, we have worked closely with our municipal partners, we have been vigilant in seeking out supplemental sources of income, we have made difficult decisions in regard to our staff and facilities,” said Daniel Malloy, Superintendent of Schools at Weatherly Area School District in Carbon County. “We have reached out, not only in Weatherly, but also as a Carbon County Community of schools to our government partners for support of our kids, our students. But it isn’t enough… We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity and we need to be certain that we get it right. Our taxpayers need relief from their already large burden in Pennsylvania, our staff need the resources to support the needs of our students, and most importantly our kids need our commitment to do all that we can to help them achieve all that they aspire to do.”
The event concluded with a call to action, urging attendees to continue advocating for adequate funding. Participants delivered report cards to the offices of the BEFC members, including Governor Shapiro’s office, as three of the BEFC members are appointees of the governor. Participants were encouraged to visit the offices of their state representatives to share their experiences and raise awareness for the needs of their local public schools.
“Since education is a right that all children should have, it is not fair that to achieve it we have to fight so many battles in these places where decisions are made. Today we are here to demand those needs that are basic for the training and development of our students,” said Milka Uribe, a parent of a student in the Reading School District and member of Make the Road.
The BEFC will hold its final scheduled hearing this Thursday, November 16 at 10:00 AM in the North Office Building, Hearing Room 1 in Harrisburg.