JSPAN Supports Goal of Adequate State Funding for Public Education

JSPAN POLICY PAPER - December 2003
JSPAN supports efforts to adequately fund public school education throughout the Commonwealth. We agree that all of the Commonwealth's children deserve the opportunity to learn and that an educated citizenry is our most effective economic development tool for a future of equity, prosperity and of growth for our citizens. We recognize that the state must raise more money to accomplish this goal, and we also agree that the tax system that relies on local property taxes perpetuates the differences between wealthy districts and poorer districts and is unfair to the elderly and those living on fixed income. JSPAN heartily agrees with the principles of targeting funds to proven academic programs, holding schools accountable for achieving results with these resources, and establishing the state's role as a source of assistance for schools and districts that are struggling to succeed. Quality public education is critical to American Jews. It is at the core of a continuing thriving democracy where the rights of minorities are preserved. Quality public education is fundamental to the preservation of separation of church and state - an issue that American Jews must vigilantly protect. Education is at the heart of Jewishness and the Torah. Without providing all with the tools for critical thinking upon which our law and all law is based, Americans will not be able to create a place if peace. We applaud Governor Rendell's recognition that desperately needed property tax relief should accompany this plan, so that Pennsylvania's local communities and seniors no longer bear the overwhelming burden for an education system that is in fact the state's responsibility. We support the proposal for Pennsylvania to make three crucial investments in its children over the next three years:
  • The Early Childhood Education Investment Fund: Pre-school will be provided to nearly 45,000 children in school districts with more than 35% of families in poverty. Full-day kindergarten is to be available to an estimated 119,000 children in all of the Commonwealth's schools. Class sizes will be capped at 17 students per teacher in every kindergarten through third grade classroom.
  • The Student Achievement Fund: Research-backed interventions will be aimed at increasing student achievement by providing coaches for teachers in math and reading, teacher training days to help educators in low-income school districts obtain the skills they need to be successful in the classroom, recruitment incentives so that rural districts can hire highly qualified math and science teachers, tutoring for all children in the Commonwealth who score below basic, and Family Resource Centers for children who come from the poorest communities.
  • The Rewarding Results Fund: There will be financial incentives for success and support to help schools achieve success by rewarding those schools that exceed performance targets. If schools develop improvement plans and are struggling with School Improvement Grants, the Plan will also provide targeted funds over the short term to help implement these plans. The proposal will create a corps of Expert Educators to work with the teachers and administrators in failing schools to help turn those schools around.
Accountability for Results: Pennsylvania's new accountability system will include rewards, supports and sanctions. Failing schools that do not improve would face real consequences, including replacement of the faculty and public school choice for students. JSPAN calls upon the State legislators to enact appropriate tax reform legislation NOW to fund the Governor's education budget. Members of both parties should stop trying to make political capital out of the crisis in public education. For More Information on this or any JSPAN policy center, please contact jspan@jspan.org.