In a state that spends more than a half billion dollars in school districts that have lost 20-50% of their student population over the last 30 years, it’s about time that the state also invests in schools that are full to the brim and getting fuller with low-income students and have the least amount to spend to educate their students.
It’s a shocker that so many rural Pennsylvania House and Senate members rail against government spending but stay silent about paying for 167,000 students that no longer attend their districts. If this is news to you, read all about it in our revealing study on PA’s Hold Harmless policy.
To put a face to the facts, take a look at Cameron County School District and Reading School District. Cameron’s enrollment is nearly half what it was in 1991 but still received increased funding year after year because of hold harmless, causing its per-student state funding to nearly quadruple. Reading’s enrollment, on the other hand, has grown by 50% but hasn’t seen proportional funding increases. Despite having nearly double the share of students in poverty, Reading has just about $15,000 to spend per student compared to Cameron’s $23,000.
PCCY’s recent report, No More Dreams Deferred, shows how funding and academic achievement are linked and it’s not a surprise. Funding allows districts to invest in resources that support student learning. For the sake of our kids, we can’t let this problem go unsolved.
PCCY and many of our partners in the PA Schools Work campaign are advancing a powerful new legislative proposal called the Level Up Supplement (HB 1167) which was introduced this week by Lehigh Valley State Representative Michael Schlossberg. Level Up would compel the state to add an extra payment via the Fair Funding Formula to the 100 poorest school districts on top of annual increases for all schools. Learn more and show your support of Level Up here.
These 100 districts are also home to 62% of students of color. In Southeastern PA, the more diverse a school district is, the less they have to spend to educate students. The Level Up Supplement is the best proposal advanced in the last 15 years to close the state’s school funding equity gap.
Already, many Southeast state lawmakers are supporting HB 1167. Thank you to Leader McClinton (Phila/Del Co), Rep. Bradford (Mont Co), Rep. Ciresi (Mont Co), Rep. Hanbidge (Mont Co), Rep. Harris (Phila), Rep. Kinsey (Phila), Rep. Nelson (Mont Co), Rep. Sanchez (Mont Co), and Rep. Sims (Phila) for their support. If your state rep isn’t yet a co-sponsor, email our Education Policy Director, Tomea Sippio-Smith, so she can help you make that happen. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Tomorrow we kick off a parent-led movement to demand the state legislature fund the lowest wealth schools that are home, in many cases, to the state’s students of color. To join this movement, contact Tomea or sign up here.