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Basic Education Funding Report
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
A FAIR CHANCE FOR PENNSYLVANIA’S KIDS
Contact: Joan Duvall-Flynn, Ed.D.
On June 18 in Harrisburg, representative democracy functioned as it should for the citizens of Pennsylvania. Working together under the leadership of State Representative Vereb and State Senator Browne, legislators along with representatives from the Governor’s office, issued an unanimously agreed upon framework for education funding in Pennsylvania that is based on the dynamic interests of a school district and the needs of its students.
In an effort to get basic education funding right, the Commission held 15 hearings across the Commonwealth over a 12 month period and listened to over 100 testimonies. From their earnest intent emerged a formula for distributing state monies to school districts that is transparent, fair, and predictable; and that accommodates equity. Districts that need the most state support will get the most state support.
The Commission is to be commended for the responsible, compassionate work they have done and the adept product they have created. They have considered the diversity among the economic conditions, the geographic settings, and the culture of Pennsylvania’s people. The formula addresses the pressing demands on school districts where the children come from economically distressed households, where school districts cover vast areas of land, and where large numbers of children are learning to speak English. It also attends to the impact of charter school payments from district budgets, and makes recommendations for broader school services such as technical education, gifted education and trauma informed education.
Yet, as it stands, relief to underfunded school districts rests on the pool of money provided for education by the General Assembly. The funding formula does not develop revenue. That is the work of the General Assembly as it adopts the state budget. The formula is the model which shows how to distribute the education funds provided by the legislature.
Pennsylvanians need to be clear. The success of the formula depends on the restoration in this year’s budget of $410 million of the funding cuts that were made to education over the past few years. School districts need to be brought back to a functional level first, then to have future monies distributed according to the new formula.
So, even given the brilliant work of the Basic Education Funding Commission, there are two steps to making whole the struggling school districts of Pennsylvania. First, on behalf of the children, we must all contact our Senators and Representatives and urge them to adopt the recommendations of the Basic Education Funding Commission. Second, we must urge these law makers to restore the $410 million of previously cut funding in order to create a healthy financial base upon which to build the new framework. The Commission has done its work give kids a fair chance. Now, Pennsylvanians, let’s do ours.
Joan Duvall-Flynn is president of the Media Area Unit of the NAACP and serves as Education Chair for the Pennsylvania State Conference of the NAACP.