Fair funding for education

By Donna Poljanec

Clarion County League of Women Voters

Pennsylvania ranks 45th among the states in its share of education funding. Within Pennsylvania we have a lack of equity in the funding of our local schools.

In 2014, a lawsuit was filed by the Public Interest Law Center and its Pennsylvania affiliate in the interest of parents and school districts against state officials. This historic lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania's school funding system is now scheduled to go to trial Nov. 12.

The case alleges Pennsylvania's school funding system violates the education clause and equal protection provisions of the state's constitution by failing to provide an adequate education to schoolchildren in low-wealth school districts and creating wide and unjustifiable disparities between school districts.

These funding issues have a direct impact on our local schools.

In our area we see larger class sizes, lower pay for teachers and higher property taxes for taxpayers. In addition there are fewer opportunities for our students.

For example, local districts may have a lack of AP courses, foreign languages and fewer opportunities for arts and music education. There may also be a lack of extra-curricular activities for students.

Our students are in classrooms that are underfunded and overcrowded. Teachers are paying out of pocket for supplies their classes need and picking up the slack in state funding. Public education is suffering.

In 2015, Pennsylvania passed a Fair Funding formula. However, this formula only applies to funding added after the law's adoption so that inequities are locked in. Because of the Hold Harmless system still in place, which guaranteesdistricts will receive at least as much state funding as they received the previous year, the formula deals with only 11 percent of the state funding of education and $1.2 billion worth of inequities are built in.

In addition, Pennsylvania's heavy reliance on local property taxes exacerbates disparities between high-wealth and low-wealth districts.

Each child in Pennsylvania has a right to an excellent public education.

Every child, regardless of zip code, deserves access to a full curriculum, art and music classes, technical opportunities and a safe, clean, stable environment. All children must be provided a level chance to succeed.

PA Schools Work is fighting for equitable, adequate funding necessary to support educational excellence. To learn more about this fight please go to https://paschoolswork.org/

To learn more about the lawsuit please go to https://edvoterspa.org/school-funding-lawsuit/

Investing in public education excellence is the path to thriving communities, a stable economy and successful students.

The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.

Membership is open to men and women of all ages. The Facebook page for our local LWV chapter is at https://http://www.facebook.com/LWVClarionCounty.

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