The adoption of the Basic Education Funding Commission Report yesterday is a major step forward in meeting our constitutional and moral responsibility to fund education fully and fairly in Pennsylvania.
The first step in this process was a Court decision by a Republican judge holding that our current system of funding education is not constitutional.
Yesterday, the state took a second step. We are grateful that a majority of the Commission, including the Governor and the members of the General Assembly, provided a detailed and specific plan to meet the constitutional and moral requirement of adequately and equitably funding our schools—a plan we believe is fair.
The plan comes very close to meeting our expectations. It sets a plausible and defensible standard for evaluating the adequacy of funding in every school district. By that standard, we need $5.4 billion per year in new funding to close the adequacy gap in a majority of the state’s five hundred school districts. The plan calls for a minimum of $200 million per year in additional basic education funds to account for inflation, which will flow through a slightly revised and improved fair funding formula And it calls for $900 million in funding to reduce the tax burden in school districts that have been taxing themselves heavily due to insufficient funding for education from the state.
The $6.3 billion in new, yearly funding will be phased in over seven years. While this is a bit slower than we had hoped, the delay is understandable. Given Pennsylvania’s severe shortage in teachers, it is not clear that school districts could spend much more in the initial years of the plan than the almost $800 million in new funding the proposal. Giving school districts a long-term plan with assured funding will enable them, and the institutions in the state that train teachers, the time to recruit a new generation of educators for our kids.
While not every member of the Commission supported this proposal, the Republican members did accept the court ruling “that the evidence presented in the case showed that resources — whether monetary or otherwise — were not adequate to meet the needs of the students.” The minority Republican report also identified best practices for education that we fully support but that cannot be put in place without new funding. And the minority report rightly said that it is up to the General Assembly to meet those needs.
So, the next steps are for the Governor to present, and the General Assembly to accept, a budget proposal that will implement the first year of this bold program.
We believe that a majority of Senate and House members will eventually do that because their districts’ families, as well as the areas’ businesses, recognize that adequately and equitably funding education is critical to providing opportunity for their kids and a strong economy for their communities.
We are grateful that Governor Shapiro and members of the General Assembly are leading the way to a better future for our kids and our Commonwealth. As advocates for education, we will spend the upcoming months collaborating with them to amplify the voices of Pennsylvania’s kids, families, and businesses in support of implementing the plan that was proposed yesterday. We believe that those voices will ultimately carry the day and that this year we will put in place a path to full and fair funding of K-12 education in PA. We encourage everyone listening today to join us.