The Law Center co-signed a letter sent to Governor Tom Wolf on January 3 that called for $400 million in new funding for K-12 schools next year:
Dear Governor Wolf,
As education and policy leaders in southeastern Pennsylvania, we thank you for your commitment to adequately funding public schools. The education funding increases you secured in your first two budgets have begun to finally ease the financial strain on school districts across the region.
Unfortunately, many districts still lack the resources necessary to deliver a proper education to all of their students. When state education funding was cut in 2011, districts in the southeast lost $330 million in aid for classroom operations, forcing them to increase local taxes and cut services and personnel. Lower-income districts with the least capacity to raise local revenue were hit the hardest. As a result, test scores declined; from 2011 to 2014, the share of students in the region failing to meet state standards grew from 22% to 29% in math and 27% to 32% in reading.
Despite the additional funds you have committed to education, state aid remains far from adequate, and districts continue to struggle to provide necessary services. Not surprisingly, test scores in the southeast have remained flat under the new state standards, with nearly 60% of students unable to meet grade-level expectations in math and 40% in reading in both 2015 and 2016. That’s more than 130,000 children struggling with math or reading.
In order to reverse these troubling trends and ensure that students have the supports they need to meet state academic standards, we urge you to set Pennsylvania on the path towards increasing education funding by at least $2.9 billion. Specifically, we ask that you propose at least $400 million in new basic education funding in your 2017-18 budget.
We recognize that you face a difficult budgetary situation, with a large deficit and strong opposition from the legislature for additional revenue. However, we know you share our conviction that a strong public education system is essential to the future of our students and our state. We cannot wait while children are being shortchanged.
Thank you for consideration.
Education Law Center of Pennsylvania
Education Voters of Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center
POWER (Philadelphians Organized to Witness Empower and Rebuild)
Public Citizens for Children and Youth
Public Interest Law Center