State Legislature Must Embrace the Governor’s Public School Funding Proposal, Codify a Concrete Timeline for Constitutional Compliance, Reject Private School Vouchers
HARRISBURG, PA (February 6, 2024) – The PA Schools Work Campaign, a coalition of 17 organizations from across Pennsylvania representing thousands of educators; urban, rural, and suburban communities; parents and community leaders working together to increase funding for PA public schools, made the following statement in regards to Governor Josh Shapiro’s proposed 2024-25 executive budget:
“Education advocates statewide are cheering Governor Shapiro’s budget proposal as a smart approach that puts Pennsylvania on the right path toward an adequate, equitable, and constitutional public funding system – this is a public education budget worth fighting for.
“Governor Shapiro’s proposal is the critical first step to close the unconstitutional $5.4 billion funding gap identified by the state’s Basic Education Funding Commission (BEFC) and should be accompanied by a legislative mandate to lock in the BEFC’s seven-year timeline for eliminating that gap and implementing the Commission’s other recommendations.
“The governor’s proposal to invest $1.8 billion more in our public schools – including improvements to facilities, and an adequacy investment of $872 million targeted to students who are most shortchanged by the current system, and significant investments in special education as part of this adequacy investment – puts Pennsylvania on the path to meeting the Commonwealth Court’s directive in the school funding lawsuit. We applaud Governor Shapiro for keeping his promise to propose increased, targeted investments in public schools to begin addressing the needs of all Pennsylvania school districts and the students they serve.
“Governor Shapiro’s budget proposal is a win for rural, urban, and suburban communities across the Commonwealth. Dr. Edward Albert, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools, a petitioner in the school funding lawsuit, said it best:
‘This is a historic proposal that addresses the needs of students in rural and small Pennsylvania public schools – it’s the start of a seven-year plan to bring stability, predictability, and the resources children need. Governor Shapiro’s public education budget proposal moves past the false division between small towns and big cities and recognizes that we need every child to have the opportunity that our constitution guarantees, no matter where they live.’
“With a historic $14 billion surplus, there is no excuse for funding this public education budget and adhering to the constitutional requirement facing our state government on public education funding. Hoarding dollars will do nothing to help our children and will only hold Pennsylvania back. This budget, when adopted, will deliver critical investments to support our teachers, repair and upgrade school facilities, provide mental health support and special education to our children who need it, and move us closer to fixing the unconstitutional public school funding system that has failed too many students for too long.
“However, any voucher program for private and religious schools creates a situation where the state government gives to our public school students with one hand while taking away with the other – a distraction from the constitutional mandate to close the public school funding gap. Every new dollar for education in Pennsylvania must be committed to closing the public school funding gap.
“We plan to work with Governor Shapiro and every member of the General Assembly who is committed to ensuring educational opportunity for every child to secure the full $1.8 billion investment for public school students.”
PA Schools Work is a non-partisan coalition of organizations from across Pennsylvania representing teachers and other educators; urban, suburban, and rural communities; and parents and community members working together to advocate for PA public schools, their students, and the communities they serve. PA Schools Work partners include: 412 Justice, ACLAMO, The ARC of Pennsylvania, Children First, Education Law Center, Education Voters of Pennsylvania, Keystone Research Center, Make the Road PA, PA Youth Vote, Pennsylvania Policy Center, Public Interest Law Center, Research for Action, Teach Plus PA, and the Urban League of Philadelphia. For more information on PA Schools Work, visit www. paschoolswork.org.