“Because all are created in God’s image, all have equal worth and dignity and should be treated accordingly. This belief stands behind our strong support for our society’s expectation that all young people have equitable access to high-quality schools.” ELCA Social Statement – Our Calling in Education, 2007.
The ELCA’s commitment to equitable access to good schools for all calls us to attend to the glaring inequalities in our Commonwealth’s education system. A recent national study ranked Pennsylvania the most inequitable in the nation, with a 33 percent difference in per pupil spending between its wealthiest and poorest districts.
LAMPa is working within a broad coalition of more than 50 organizations in the Campaign for Fair Education Funding, whose mission is to ensure that Pennsylvania adopts and maintains an adequate and equitable system of funding public education. Every public school must have the resources necessary to enable every child to meet state academic standards, be prepared for post-secondary success, and become productive, knowledgeable, and engaged adults. Educating our children is a collective imperative that has positive social and economic benefits for the Commonwealth and its communities.
The statewide coalition, which includes stakeholders from parents and students to teacher unions, business leaders and school officials, launched shortly after the bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission began its work in July of 2014, each citing the need for a fair and adequate funding system for public schools. LAMPa offered testimony that was included in the commission’s report.
The Campaign applauded the recommendations for a funding formula released by the commission in June 2015, and Lutherans have been writing to and meeting with lawmakers since then to enact and fund the recommendations. Although the formula is sound, without enough dollars driven through it, no significant change would be made in the financial disparities among schools.
Nine Months Late, Harrisburg Fails to Deliver for Students
On March 23, 2016, faced with cries from school districts forking millions of dollars in interest to banks just to stay open, Gov. Wolf announced he was allowing the 2015-2016 budget passed by the legislature to become law without his signature. Furthermore, he vetoed the fiscal note that contains the funding formula recommended by the Basic Education Funding Commission, but which also contained harmful language delaying implementation of important environmental protections. Read here about the Campaign’s statement regarding the decision’s impact on students.
LAMPa will continue to engage Lutherans and lawmakers in examining the disparities in resources and outcomes for our children. You don’t have to be an education expert or a parent to know that striving together to help ALL children develop their gifts and abilities is part of our calling. To share your story or get involved, contact us at LAMPa@lutheranadvocacypa.org.
Enacting and Fair and Adequate School Funding
What is the status of school funding in Pennsylvania?
Our Commonwealth has the distinction of being one of the most inequitable states in the nation when it comes to funding its schools, and a recent national study ranked Pennsylvania THE most inequitable, with a 33 percent difference in per pupil spending between its wealthiest and its poorest districts. Our position as one of only three states without a funding formula to distribute sufficient resources fairly and predictably results in a funding system that fails to provide enough resources to educate all students to academic standards and is so unpredictable from year to year that school districts cannot effectively budget or plan. Coupled with increasing reliance on local funding for schools, our system has led to increasing disparity in investment, achievement and economic health in our communities. Since 2010-11, half of school districts have furloughed teachers or other support staff, 74% have cut or reduced at least one academic program, 57% have increased class sizes, and student performance has lagged.
A Lutheran Legacy in Learning
“A city’s best and greatest welfare, safety, and strength consist in its having many able, learned, wise, honorable and well-educated citizens.” So wrote Martin Luther in his appeal to city governments to establish schools for ALL children – boys and girls, wealthy and poor.
“Because all are created in God’s image, all have equal worth and dignity and should be treated accordingly. This belief stands behind our strong support for our society’s expectation that all young people have equitable access to high-quality schools.” ELCA Social Statement – Our Calling in Education, 2007. As Christians, we believe that the necessity, capacity, love and delight to learn, teach and know come from God, and that those gifts are to be used for living in love with God and others and for caring for the earth on which we all depend. We recognize that persistent poverty and discrimination and lack of access to high-quality schools often go hand and hand and contribute to our society’s failure to educate all young people to develop these gifts – perpetuating a cycle of hopelessness and suffering that diminishes us all. We also recognize that good schools alone cannot break the cycle of generational poverty, but they have an indispensable role in doing so.
What is LAMPa asking Advocates to do?
- Follow the Campaign for Fair Education Funding.
- Contact LAMPa to share your story or get involved, or if you would like to conduct a letter-campaign in your congregation.
- Contact your lawmakers and Gov. Wolf and urge them to fairly and adequately fund public education in the 2016-2017 budget, which means working together to enact the fair school funding formula recommended by the bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission and pass an on-time budget that makes a significant investment in our public schools next year of at least $400 million and provides adequate revenues to support that investment. Let LAMPa know about your advocacy!
Tell the story of your personal, congregational or organizational experience or work with children, schools and your communities.