Urge Your Legislators to Stand Up for Public Education

In November 2007, the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania released a "Costing-Out Study", which finally offered answers to a long standing question: What does it take to provide a high quality education to every Pennsylvania student? According to Good Schools Pennsylvania, a statewide network of citizens who are informed and mobilized in support of public education, the study served as the first comprehensive audit of all 501 Pennsylvania school districts and revealed some sobering numbers: that $11,926 is the average level of funding required to ensure that every student reaches state standards, nearly $2,500 above what is currently being spent; that 474 out of 501 districts are underfunded under the current system; and that Pennsylvania needs to invest an additional $4.6 billion to adequately fund all school districts. The costing-out study reinforced that Pennsylvania needs a more effective and equitable statewide funding system. Good Schools Pennsylvania states that "there are promising signs that the study has gained traction and champions among lawmakers who recognize that an effective system of public education is an investment in our communities and the prosperity of our commonwealth." To continue the momentum from the costing-out study, legislators have recently advanced proposals for the creation of a Joint Legislative Commission on Public School Finance, which would help to raise awareness of the value of sound school funding policies. In addition, Governor Rendell has outlined a new school funding formula in his 2008 - 2009 budget proposal which insists, according to Good Schools Pennsylvania, that "the General Assembly's costing- out study must serve as the benchmark for calculating each school district's 'adequacy' target, taking into account factors like enrollment numbers, numbers of students in poverty or who are learning English, a district's size and regional cost differences. The formula then calculates the gap between what is currently being spent and what is still needed to reach adequacy, and assesses local wealth and tax burden to determine state share." Governor Rendell is proposing that the state invest $2.6 billion over the next six years to help all school districts reach their adequacy targets, with an initial payment of $291 million in the 2008 - 2009 budget. Good Schools Pennsylvania is urging our JSPAN readership to contact our legislators and ask them to "use this historic opportunity to permanently fix Pennsylvania's school funding formula." You can e-mail your elected officials by visiting the Good Schools Pennsylvania website at http://www.goodschoolspa.org/take_action/. To learn more about Governor Rendell's budget proposal, click here.