With the 2016-17 state budget-making season now upon us, a coalition of advocates from across Pennsylvania came to the state Capitol to call on lawmakers to increase the state’s investment in public education by $400 million.
Rallying for more education funding in 2016-17Parents, grandparents, school board members and administrators, and public officials gathered in the Capitol Rotunda on Monday to call for $400 million more in public school funding to be driven out through the state’s new funding formula.
And the Campaign for Fair Education Funding advocates want that money distributed using what they hope will become a permanent education funding formula that was used for the first time this year. It distributes dollars based on factors that include student enrollment and need.
Among those participating in the rally were school board members and administrators, parents, grandparents, a mayor and others who said dramatic increases in education are needed to close the gap between the wealthiest and poorest school districts, which is widest of any state in the country.
The $150 million in additional funding for basic education that was included in this year’s recently finalized state budget barely put dent in the need districts have to educate all students to meet the state standards.
“If the state continues to limit funding increases to the level approved in this year’s budget, infants in their cribs today will be out of high school by the time we achieve a fully funded and fair public school funding system,” said campaign member Joan Benso, president and CEO of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children.
The Rev. Dennis Ritter, a former Kutztown School Board member, said the amount of money a district spends per student alone doesn’t make for an excellent program “but lack of funds certainly hurts the development of an excellent program.”
The advocates’ call for more funding for education is shared by House Republicans but House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, steered clear of any commitment of how much more and was equally non-committal about where any additional dollars would be directed.
“That could be early childhood education. That could be special ed, basic education or higher education,” Reed said. By keeping “everything else minimal throughout the entire budget that gives us more flexibility in education.”
Credit: Penn Live