It’s unprecedented: In midwinter, Pennsylvania’s schools are still without a budget and lack the funding they need to get through the school year.
In December, Republican legislative leadership reversed course and pushed through an austere, partisan budget, abandoning the compromise framework that had been negotiated with Gov. Wolf, a Democrat. The governor has been insisting that schools get substantial funding relief to make up for years of devastating cuts. He had fought for an expansion of early childhood programming, which also had been achieved in the negotiated agreement that was trashed.
The partial budget signed by Wolf at year’s end bought some time to reach a resolution, providing a half-year worth of school aid. But legislators have frittered that time away. Their salaries keep flowing, but they have accomplished nothing to address the urgent needs of our schools. This is an outrage.
Pennsylvania's constitution requires the legislature to support a thorough and efficient system of education. The state has reneged on that obligation by consistently providing inadequate funding, forcing schools to depend more on local revenues, and creating what’s been labeled the most unequal set of school systems in the country.
Adding insult to injury, the legislature recently approved changes to the school code that make it impossible for school districts to manage the expansion of charter schools and also practically force Philadelphia to convert more traditional District schools to charters. Under existing rules and funding, each new charter slot takes dollars away from students in District schools. That’s unacceptable.
It’s time for the legislature to find the revenues to fulfill its constitutional responsibility to fairly and adequately fund all our schools.