Urges state to make major down payment to close state’s $4.6 billion funding gap and provide more funding for the schools in communities that need the most help
HARRISBURG, PA (February 2, 2021) – Ahead of the governor’s proposed budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year, the PA Schools Work campaign today called for the state to make a bold and significant investment in education to begin addressing chronic state underfunding, which has created a funding gap of $4.6 billion.
“The state’s broken school funding system has been failing students and local taxpayers and weakening Pennsylvania’s future,” said Marc Stier, Director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center at a virtual press conference. “There are different options on the table for this budget year, but in the end, we need a significant down payment this year, ranging from $1.5 billion to $2.5 billion, toward closing the funding gap. The state will have an accumulated surplus of almost $12 billion by the end of June that makes investments at this level possible.”
“Every time I enter my classroom, I see the effects of the state’s shortchanging of our schools,” said Laura Sosik of the Scranton School District. “The students in my classroom aren’t any less capable than the students in other districts. The students in my classroom are going to change the world. It’s time for Pennsylvania to fund our schools.”\
“Without a substantial increase in funding from Harrisburg, thousands and thousands of kids will go without the educational basics because of where they live,” said Tomea Sippio-Smith, K-12 Education Policy Director at Children First (formally Public Citizens for Children and Youth). “Students need high-quality teachers and counselors, nutritious meals, updated books and technology, and much more. And that costs money.”
To reach the students and communities that need help the most, the group urged that the bulk of the funding be distributed through the state basic education fair funding formula, with additional dollars allocated through a Level Up supplement for the 100 school districts most in need.
Noting that there is a growing need for special education services for Pennsylvania students, as well as career and technical education programs to meet students’ workforce needs, PA Schools Work also called on lawmakers to expand funding for those programs as part of this major investment.
“If we believe in fairness and opportunity for all students–as both a moral necessity and an economic one–then unrigging Pennsylvania’s school funding system should be an urgent priority,” said Laura Boyce, Executive Director of Teach Plus. “Lawmakers don’t need to wait for a lawsuit verdict to stop blaming students for the state’s failures and do the right thing. We are heading into budget season with a historic surplus and historic public support for fixing our funding system. It’s time for our state lawmakers to make a big down payment on the $4.6 billion adequacy shortfall.”
“An increase of $1.5 to $2.5 billion will not make our school funding system whole, but it will certainly give more students, especially in the communities that need help the most a better chance of success and a brighter future,” said Sippio-Smith.