March 7, 2023 – One month ago, in a historic ruling, Commonwealth Court declared Pennsylvania’s school funding system unconstitutional and ordered the governor and legislature to fix it.
The court recognized what Pennsylvania parents and educators have known for years: hundreds of thousands of children in low-wealth districts are being denied their fundamental right to quality public education, because the state shortchanges their communities.
Today, Gov. Shapiro issued a call to action for “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us to do right by our kids, to fund our schools.” We are grateful for the governor’s leadership, and we look forward to working with the governor to find a comprehensive solution that “ensures every child has access to thorough and efficient education.” As he recognized, the current budget proposal does not do that.
This work must begin without delay. This year’s proposed education budget does not do enough to meet the standard set by our state constitution and the urgency of this moment. This year’s increases are only pegged to keeping school funding on pace with inflation. This proposal also takes a step backwards: while last year’s budget provided additional support for the Commonwealth’s most deeply underfunded districts through the Level Up program; this one does not. The moment calls for more.
Students need a budget proposal this year that begins to change the inadequate and inequitable public school funding status quo in Pennsylvania, and provides students with the educators and resources that allow them to realize their potential. We look forward to working with the Governor and the General Assembly to answer the call, enacting a budget that makes a down-payment towards a constitutionally compliant system, and begins a multiyear plan to provide adequate funding for all students and schools.
Background on this year’s budget proposal
This year’s budget proposal includes 7.8 percent increases in basic education funding (BEF) and special education funding (SEF). $567 million for BEF, and $104 million for SEF. As stated in the governor’s budget in brief, these increases are “on par with recent inflationary and cost-of-living growth.” Last year’s education budget included a $768 million increase for BEF—including a $225 million Level Up supplement for the 100 most underfunded school districts—and a $100 million increase for SEF.