EDUCATION FUNDING DELAYED IS EDUCATION DENIED
Additional funding for PA’s lowest resourced schools took center stage at the state capitol on Thursday, Aug 10th.
In a House Education Committee hearing, lawmakers, education leaders, and school superintendents sang the praises of Level Up, an additional and much needed state funding stream for the state’s lowest wealth districts.
“I want the committee to know that this money is doing great, great things,”” said Pottstown School District Superintendent Stephen Rodriguez. “This year has been the absolute best year for getting teachers because we have been able to pay our teachers more.”
“For the first time in many years are going to be almost fully staffed. We have been able to add instructional computers [and] school counselors for mental health. Last year, our elementary schools in K through five jumped an average of 3.5 grade levels in reading,” he added.
Wow! In a chronically – and unconstitutionally – underfunded public school system, it’s rare to hear such a positive progress report. So why is the $100 million Level Up dollars budgeted to go to the state’s 100 most underfunded school districts being held up? It’s politics and procedure.
The General Assembly has to pass guidelines that direct how the Level Up money will be distributed, and that means the House and Senate – both enjoying their summer recess – must reconvene and vote. It appears that hurt feelings (bruised egos?) from the bitter budget negotiations will delay authorization of Level Up funding until late next month, far too late after schools start.
Until Governor Shapiro and legislators resolve the massive and unconstitutional underfunding of our public schools, Level Up funding is a lifeline. Sadly, because it has to be approved each year, district leaders have to cross their fingers and hold their breath until their full state funding is passed.
“Predictability is always good for us as educators and the more predictability we can go into budget season with each year, the more we can meet the specific needs of our students,” testified Dr. Keith Miles, Jr., Superintendent of the School District of Lancaster. His teachers and administrators are forced to put items on a “wish list” that can only be fulfilled when Level Up dollars come through.
“A lot of the resources on that wish list item are resources such as after school programming and additional supplementary resources,” especially ones that help struggling students, he added.
No one in a rich district would even think to consign afterschool activities, tutoring, and additional learning tools to a wish list, but that’s the unfortunate reality for students in underfunded schools.
Do your part to help students get the resources they need by calling your state senator and leave a quick message like, “This is [your name] and I live in your district at [your address]. I support Level Up funding and am asking you to release these critical dollars for students in our most underfunded schools. Every child deserves the best education and I’m counting on your support.”
Just a handful of phone calls from constituents has a huge impact on lawmakers’ decisions so please take two minutes and make this call.