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In February 2023, Judge Renée Cohn Jubelirer called for a new funding system in Pennsylvania to fulfill the state’s obligation to provide a thorough and efficient education for its children.

The Basic Education Funding Commission has been charged by Governor Shapiro and legislative leaders with developing a response to Judge Jubelirer’s decision in the school funding lawsuit, which held that every student in Pennsylvania should have—but doesn’t have now—access to a “comprehensive, effective, and contemporary system of public education,” as required by the Pennsylvania Constitution.

The Pennsylvania Policy Center has prepared materials for the Commission that address a number of questions raised during its hearing, drawing on both our own analysis of education policy in Pennsylvania and summaries of the relevant academic research. As members of the General Assembly will ultimately be making the critical decisions about how we fund K-12 education in the state and the public has a strong stake in the Commission’s work, we thought we would share this with you.

This memo summarizes three policy reports.

The first report, Shuffling the Deck Won’t Solve the Pennsylvania School Funding Crisis, addresses the paradox that Pennsylvania has a relatively high level of school funding yet also has a system with the most inequitably funded schools in the country. The result: a majority of Pennsylvania students attends schools that, by the state’s own standards, are inadequately funded. The paper shows that the inequity of Pennsylvania’s school funding is the result of our low state share of K-12 funding. And the inadequacy of funding in most schools, despite a relatively high overall amount of funding, is not just the result of inequity but also arises because the standard set by our constitution requires more than the mediocre school performance found in most states.

The second report, Education Funding and Educational Achievement, reviews the recent academic evidence about the impact of new school funding on student achievement and later-life success. It shows that studies of new state funding of K-12 schools subsequent to court decisions in other states have shown strong, and sometimes, dramatic improvements in the quality  of education.

The third report, The Contribution of K-12 Education to Economic Growth and Democracy, reviews the impressive academic evidence demonstrating that the 19th-century founders of public education in Pennsylvania, starting with Thaddeus Stevens, were right to believe that improvements in the quality of education both strengthen our democracy and lead to faster economic growth.

We summarize the three papers in the rest of this memo.

Editorial Board Memo on Education