We Witnessed History in the Making
In A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens artfully portrays the stark disparity between the haves and the have-nots. Today’s opening remarks in the Fair Funding Lawsuit could have been written by Dickens himself.
The State Capitol Complex buzzed this morning with energy around the start of the historic – and seven years in the making – court case to address the unjust and inequitable state education funding formula. Attorneys for Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman and House Speaker Bryan Cutler (aka, the defendants) argued that there’s nothing wrong with pennywise funding and expecting students to rely on their pluck to lift themselves out of their circumstances.
They argued that some students are succeeding in districts where budgets and teachers are being pulled to a near breaking point. So, why intervene if they can continue to squeeze every last drop out of local districts? And besides, we’ve been underfunding for years and it’s worked so far, so what’s the problem?
The most troubling is this notion that kids can pull themselves up by their bootstraps (see #seriously). If parents and students just work hard to grasp the elusive brass ring of success, opportunity awaits. Add to that their argument that the state is undisputedly not responsible to provide “extras” like libraries or counselors and it’s a wonder that any student has succeeded at all!
To contrast this Dickensian view, hundreds of pro-education advocates rallied outside the Capitol and the Courthouse calling for proactive interventions that will give our children the best chance at life. Education Voters of PA and Children First brought together a diverse and dynamic coalition that called for fairness and opportunity.
Karen Beck-Pooley, a Bethlehem School District parent and Board member, was one of those passionate speakers and her remarks summed up perfectly our optimistic vision of education. “Our public schools are a vital pathway to opportunity and upward mobility – and a quality education is a constitutional right for all children in the Commonwealth. It’s a right too many are currently denied.”
The energy, the enthusiasm, and the voices of young people and seasoned advocates rang throughout the Capitol Complex, lauding our students for courageously facing so many intentional obstacles and promising future generations equitable access to a quality education.
Today is just Day One in a long court case. You will have more opportunities to watch the great work of the Education Law Center and the Public Interest Law Center, and show your support for fair and equitable funding with more opportunities to stand with us and condemn the legislature that blames children and parents for the sorry state of our education system.
You would think in this time and age, children shouldn’t have to beg to get what they need to feed their bodies and their minds. In essence, Pennsylvania students shouldn’t have to plead the General Assembly for a quality education – to quote another great Dickens’ work – “Please, sir, I want some more.”