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PA School Funding Coalition Urges Congress to Support Additional Federal Funds to School Districts
HARRISBURG, PA (April 21, 2020) – PA Schools Work, a non-partisan coalition of organizations representing the state’s urban, suburban and rural communities working together to advocate for PA public schools, is urging Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation to support additional significant, flexible funding for public K-12 education in the next phase of emergency COVID-19 response legislation.
PA Schools Work expressed gratitude to Congress for the swift and bipartisan of COVID emergency response packages which will provide $13.5 billion nationally to schools, with about $628M earmarked for Pennsylvania. These funds are a fraction of the $79 billion the federal government provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009 and likely to fall far short of the tremendous need.
Current estimates show that PA school districts are likely to lose more than $325 million in local revenue this fiscal year, and potentially lose more than $1 billion next year. At the same time, Pennsylvania is projecting budget deficits of as much as $5 billion and will be hard-pressed to keep up funding for schools, let alone close the local shortfalls, without more federal relief. Clearly, this first investment by Congress is not enough to ensure that schools can avoid drastic, student-harming budget cuts and mass layoffs.
PA Schools Work describes the critical nature of this additional appropriation in a letter to the federal delegation, noting, “By every indication, this economic downturn will be much deeper than in 2009. Without more federal relief, the impacts on schools could far exceed the damage of the $1 billion state funding cut of 2011, which led to cuts in school programs and the termination of 27,000 teacher and other school personnel jobs.”
PA Schools Work agrees with multiple national education organizations that a $200 billion emergency response for K-12 schools is needed to offset billions in anticipated lost state and local revenues.
Before the COVID-19 crisis hit, Pennsylvania’s public schools were found to be among the nation’s most inequitable. The COVID-19 school closures have revealed the full nature of these inequities, as some districts transitioned to full, online instruction seamlessly, while others did not have the resources to implement digital distance learning.
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