Parents, teachers push for new Pa. schools funding formula

Pennsylvania lawmakers met in Philadelphia Tuesday to talk about educating funding, just a day after the city’s schools opened amid major cutbacks.

Charter school champions, parent activists, a public school student, a teacher and other residents who testified before the House Democratic policy committee all agreed on at least one point: They want the state to come up with a more equitable way of allocating money to schools.

“We’re one of three states that don’t truly have a funding formula of some kind that channels money according to the students’ needs and where the students are going to school,” said Mark Gleason, executive director of the Philadelphia School Partnership, which contributes money to high-performing schools including charters.

Kathleen Melville, a teacher at Constitution High School, may not agree with Gleason on issues like seniority. But she concurs that the state needs a new formula to drive education spending.

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“My students and their parents really believe [education] is … the ticket into the middle class,” she said. “In order to offer people those opportunities, it needs to be equal across the board. There needs to be a fair provision of education.”

According to the Pennsylvania Education Law Center, the state government does not currently utilize a formula to distribute money to schools. The Corbett administration has maintained that education funding is protected from politics in the state budget.

State Rep. Brian Sims, a Philadelphia Democrat, is optimistic that the Republican-controlled legislature will support a new, more predictable mechanism for funding schools.

Sims said that he and other lawmakers have been working to reach across the ideological — and geographical — aisle.

“Why would you vote in favor of us if you know nothing about us, if we’re the ‘other’ all the time? I understand that,” he said. “So we’re making sure we’re not the ‘other’ all the time.”

The General Assembly will return from its summer break Sept. 23.

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