The money Pennsylvania schools receive per pupil varies widely, and on average, students of color get fewer resources. The state has a formula designed to address the inequity, but it’s only used for some funding.
On Wednesday, around a thousand activists took a trip to the Capitol to call for change. Most protesters with the faith group POWER came from the Philadelphia region.
They are pushing a bill that would apply the fair funding formula to all education money. It’s sponsored by Philadelphia Democratic Representative Chris Rabb.
“This is a justice issue,” Rabb told the crowd, which filled the rotunda and the balconies that ring it. “We will keep on fighting.”
Enacted in 2016, the funding formula accounts for actual enrollment, poverty, and the money districts get from local taxes. But it only applies to new funding each year — a small part of the total.
Applied everywhere, it would give more money to poorer, urban districts in the Philadelphia area. But it would reduce funding for many rural and western districts — including Pittsburgh.
Montgomery County Representative Tom Murt — the only Republican who spoke at the rally — said that’s why much of his caucus doesn’t want to commit to it.
“When it comes down to brass tacks if you will, I’m not sure that they’re willing to fund education in the magnitude that we believe it should be funded,” he said.
Fair funding isn’t likely to come up during ongoing budget talks.
Mike Straub, a spokesman for House Republicans, noted that despite the formula staying gradual, schools will almost certainly “remain one of the largest portions of the state budget.”
“Just how much in total the funding increases this year is still being worked out in the budget process,” he added.
Senate GOP Spokeswoman Jenn Kocher had a similar message.
She said she is sure the commonwealth’s Basic Education Funding Commission will discuss the fair funding issue “in greater detail when they reconvene next year.”