June 24, 2015
Hundreds of parents, students, clergy, local community leaders, teachers and other educators from across Pennsylvania joined members of the Campaign for Fair Education Funding at the State Capitol Tuesday to urge state lawmakers to create a basic education funding system to ensure that all students have access to a quality education no matter where they live.
“The voices of these Pennsylvanians could not be clearer,” said Susan Gobreski, Executive Director of Education Voters of Pennsylvania, one of 50 organizations that make up the Campaign. “A significant additional investment in education, coupled with a formula that will allocate dollars in a rational way, are both necessary in order for Pennsylvania to fully eliminate the current funding disparities in our public schools, so that all children in Pennsylvania, no matter where they live, will receive the educational opportunities they need to meet state standards.”
More than a dozen people explained what fair education funding would mean to them, including: High school students Kyle Thompson and Abbey Caspar, both from Allegheny County school districts that have been forced to make cutbacks in recent years, spoke of how fair funding would affect young people.
“Fair funding means the education system cares about us as students,” said Thompson, a student at McKeesport Area School District. Caspar, who attends Steel Valley School District, added, “If we have fair funding, students will get the classes they want and be more motivated to go to school.”
Officials from small rural districts talked about the impact that inequitable and inadequate state funding has had on their schools. Mike Yeager, school board president for the Southern Columbia Area School District, said his district had to make cuts in art, music, physical education and other programs.
Matt Splain, Superintendent at Otto-Eldred School District in McKean County, said rural districts like his have very little capacity to generate local tax revenues to fund its schools. “It is critical that Pennsylvania meets its obligation to adequately fund opportunities for all students through a formula,” he said.
A parent, small business owner and former school board member from Lancaster, John McGrann, spoke about challenges facing urban districts like his, including aging infrastructure. “These buildings are challenging to keep safe, expensive to maintain, and lack modern infrastructure that is standard-issue in many adjacent suburban districts, such as air conditioning and smart boards,” he said. “Our students deserve better.”
“The communities these Pennsylvanians come from and the challenges they face are diverse, but the solution is the same for all: increased and sustained investment in our schools,” said Gobreski.
In closing out the rally, Patrick Dowd, Executive Director of Allies for Children, said, “Just last week the bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission reached unanimous agreement on recommendations for a new funding formula. It is now time for all of our lawmakers to finish this work and enact a fair, sustainable and predictable public school funding system that provides sufficient funding so every student has an opportunity to succeed.”
The Campaign is made up of more than 50 member organizations representing educators, labor, business leaders, faith-based organizations, child advocates, charter schools, traditional public schools and representatives from rural, urban and growing school districts.
Learn more about the Campaign for Fair Education Funding at www.fairfundingpa.org.
Speakers who participated in yesterday’s rally and Voices for Fair Funding include:
- Susan Gobreski, Executive Director, Education Voters PA
- Michael Yeager, School Board President, Southern Columbia Area School District (Columbia County)
- Reverend David Byerly, Pastor, Grace Lutheran Church (Northumberland County)
- Elizabeth Barr, Teacher, Altoona Area School District (Blair County)
- John McGrann, Parent, School District of Lancaster (Lancaster County)
- Abbey Caspar, student (16 years old), Steel Valley School District (Allegheny County
- Mr. Matthew Splain, Superintendent, Otto-Eldred School District (McKean County)
- Shirley Howe, Parent, Lower Merion School District (Montgomery County)
- David Patti, President & CEO, Pennsylvania Business Council
- Dr. Kendy Klahr Hinkel, Superintendent, Pine Grove Area School District (Schuylkill County)
- Kyle Thompson (15 years old), McKeesport Area School District (Allegheny County)
- Evie Cai, Community Member, RadnorTownship School District (Delaware County)
- W. Michael Nailor, retired Librarian and President, PA School Librarians Association
- Toni Damon, Principal, Murell Dobbins CTE High School (Philadelphia)
- Jerry Oleksiak, former Special Education Teacher / PSEA Vice President
- Patrick Dowd, Executive Director, Allies for Children