The Campaign for Fair Education Funding Launches

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania today (October 6) joined more than 40 organizations from across the Commonwealth in calling for a fair and adequate funding formula for Pennsylvania public schools. Our new partnership in The Campaign for Fair Education Funding stems from the Lutheran understanding of education as part of our baptismal vocation.

As we understand vocation to be a calling from God that encompasses all of life for all the faithful, our call in education is two-fold: to educate people in Christian faith for their vocation, and to strive with others to ensure that all have access to high-quality education that develops personal gifts and abilities and serves the common good.

The ELCA social statement “Our Calling in Education”, adopted at the 2007 Churchwide Assembly, continues:
In view of the expanding role In light of the essential role of public education in serving the common good of the society and in the face of continuing concern for the effectiveness of some public schools, the lack of equitable access for many students to high-quality schools, and the often inadequate provision of financial resources, the ELCA affirms and advocates for the equitable, sufficient, and effective funding of public schools.

Pennsylvania, one of only five states in the country without a public school funding formula, is placing increasing burdens on struggling communities. Eight school districts are close to or have already been deemed by the state to be “in distress.” Dozens more are on the brink. Class sizes are growing and programs are being cut across the state.

Most importantly, the existing funding system is widening the achievement gap between wealthy and poor communities.

The hope of struggling families is being extinguished as their children are left further and further behind. They can be found in every part of Pennsylvania. Once seen as the great equalizer, in today’s public education system, your chance for success depends upon your address. Our policies are telling some of our children they have less value. That is unacceptable. We, particularly as Lutherans with our strong heritage of support of public education for all — must engage to change that message, to restore the hope of healthy and bright futures for all of God’s children. To learn more, join in or share your story, email here.
The mission of the campaign is to ensure that Pennsylvania adopts and maintains an adequate and equitable system of funding public education by 2016. 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

The non-partisan coalition includes educators, business, labor, faith-based organizations as well as civic and child advocacy groups. Representing schools from urban, rural and suburban Pennsylvania, the broad-based campaign is operating on a parallel track with the Basic Education Funding Commission launched by the Legislature in August. Read testimony or watch video of commission hearings and learn about future hearings around the state here.
The campaign seeks to inform the work of the commission and promote public policy awareness and policy discussion around four principles:

Campaign principles
• Accuracy is important
The new system must be based on real costs necessary to meet state academic standards and must use accurate, reliable, verifiable, and current school and community data that addresses factors including poverty, English proficiency, school enrollment, and other objective measures that impact those costs.
• Students and schools need stability
The new system must be transparent, sustainable, equitable, and long-range — and supported with sufficient, stable, and broad-based resources. A new basic education funding system is the foundation for educating all children, including children with special needs who will require additional resources through the special education allocation.
• Responsibility is shared
The new system must operate based on shared fiscal responsibility among the local community, the state, individuals, and commercial taxpayers, recognizing the differing levels of local funding available and the relationship between adequate financial support and student outcomes.
• Accountability is required
The new system must include strong accountability standards to ensure that schools invest efficiently and effectively to boost student achievement and help ensure post-secondary success. These standards also should allow and/or encourage schools to pursue and sustain operational cost-saving and cost-sharing options that are consistent with ongoing efforts to foster student achievement and success.

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