Philadelphia County is simultaneously the poorest and the 19th most affluent in the country. The college attainment rate has been holding steady at 20% since 2012, but only moved from 18% in 2009. The School District of Philadelphia has been under state control since 2001, which makes it the most vulnerable to statewide budget decisions. For the last few months, Harrisburg has been battling over the verbiage of the not yet passed state budget. Governor Wolf kept his election promise and allotted historically more funds to education spending, approximately 410 million dollars. Pennsylvania contributes the least to education (35%) compared to other states. It also included a tax on Marcellus Shale for fracking, but that has been eliminated as Harrisburg continues to agree to disagree.
In October, the Campaign for Fair Education Funding released a report titled, Lifting All Students: Why Pennsylvania Must Act Now to Fairly Fund Public Education and Secure Our Future. It details the impact of a fair full funding formula and each county. “In June, the bipartisan state Basic Education Funding Commission (BEFC) unanimously approved recommendations for an equitable new school funding formula.” Despite all of this excellent data and work, it still remains a recommendation. Districts that spend more money demonstrate higher rates of student success in regard to rates of graduation and increased quality of life.
The taxes that are suggested in the current budget will provide a necessary stream of income, but taxation is not enough if the state continues to send the same dollars to each school district regardless of its makeup and need. Please contact your State Representative and demand that they stand for the full funding formula recommendation and to restore the funding cuts from Corbett. “Our Campaign projects that an increased annual state investment of $3.6 billion, phased in over six to eight years, is needed to close the current school funding gap.” (Page 1) We applaud Wolf for his steadfastness during this crisis that is literally placing many services on the brink of extinction, but if he caves Philadelphia public schools will continue to subsist on a shoestring budget that simply keeps the lights on in most schools and nothing more.