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Pennsylvania students require equitable school funding

On Feb. 3, Gov. Tom Wolf proposed a bold budget for 2021-2022 that would substantially increase Pennsylvania’s K-12 Basic Education Funding (BEF) budget.

Importantly, it would distribute most of that increase to school districts using the Fair Funding Formula adopted by the Legislature in 2016.

We strongly urge our legislators to support this.

In the five years since the Fair Funding Formula was passed, only “new” money (only 11% this year) has been directed to schools through it.

The vast majority of Basic Education Funding is instead based on historical allocations to districts, a practice that fails to account for growing enrollments or rising needs in countless districts.

This shortchanges most Pennsylvania public school students and roughly 80 percent of Black and Hispanic students.

It also translates into fewer educational opportunities for students in underfunded districts: fewer AP courses; outdated books and technology; smaller art and music programs; higher student-teacher ratios; and fewer counselors, nurses and librarians.

Equity is no longer an option, it is an imperative. That is why Pennsylvanians for Fair Funding (a grassroots coalition of parents, students, school board members, taxpayers, educators, and voters) will be working exhaustively with its partners to see that the Commonwealth increases and fairly distributes education funding for all children.

Sufficient and equitable education funding is essential to undo what has been years of blatantly inadequate support for the Commonwealth’s underserved and underfunded students, who are primarily Black and Hispanic. We look forward to working with the General Assembly, governor, and every Pennsylvanian to enact this historic education budget before June 30, 2021.

(This letter was authored by John Barnett, Chester Springs; Alex Battaglia, Philadelphia; Inge Hamilton, Lafayette Hill; Laura Johnson, Pottstown, and Karen Pooley, Bethlehem, all education and community advocates.)

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