Seeing my daughters head off to school this morning, excited to meet their new teachers and to start a new year, I was grateful for their public schools.
Unfortunately, the budget that Governor Corbett and our area legislators passed in June was not good for our public schools. The strong efforts of parents and public education advocates kept at bay additional cuts in state funding. However, state funding for public schools in PA is still $580 million below 2010-11 classroom funding levels. For the 4th year in a row, many children in our region will be heading back to schools to sit in crowded classrooms, where they will receive fewer learning opportunities than their brothers and sisters who came before them.
As political races heat up, you may see ads claiming, “PA sends more on basic education than any other time in our state’s history.” Please know that this statement is based on fuzzy Harrisburg math. Political candidates who make this claim are including the state’s mandated payments into the pension system as funding for public schools. While pension payments are definitely part of the education budget, it is misleading at best and desperate at worst for elected officials to suggest to voters that more money than ever before is being spent in our children’s classrooms. This simply is not true and we know it.
As we look forward to the upcoming school year, parents and public education advocates have unprecedented opportunities to support our public schools.
A Basic Education Funding Commission made up of state legislators will study how PA funds its schools and make recommendations to improve the funding system. This is a big deal and has the potential to bring real change and fairness to PA’s broken system of funding schools. Parents and advocates will have many opportunities to be involved in this conversation and to influence the decisions the commission makes. I will be sending out periodic updates and include tips on how we can advocate together for better funding for ALL of Pennsylvania’s schools.
In addition, please plan to vote on November 4th for candidates who will support our public schools. Our governor, our state representatives, and our state senators decide how much state money is spent on public education and how it will be allocated to school districts. We need to use our power as voters to elect the candidates who will make fair and adequate state funding for our public schools their top priority.
As PA’s children head back to school to take advantage of learning opportunities to develop their potential, I look forward to working together to take advantage opportunities to support their schools!