Last week petitioners in Pennsylvania’s school funding lawsuit filed a brief and affidavits refuting the claim made by the Republican leader of the PA Senate, Joe Scarnati, that the lawsuit was rendered moot because the state adopted a school funding formula in 2016.
The brief details how state funding increases have not kept pace with rising mandated costs, including pension expenses. Because of this, aggregate state funding available to school districts for classroom costs have effectively decreased by $155.3 million since 2013.
In addition, according to an affidavit filed by KRC Labor Economist Mark Price, funding gaps between low- and high-wealth districts have significantly increased since the case was filed. Four years ago, a typical high-wealth school district spent $3,058 more per student than a typical low-wealth school district. Today that difference has grown to $3,778/student.
In other words, four years ago, high-wealth districts spent $76,450 more for each classroom of 25 students than low-wealth districts. Today, they spend $94,450 more.
In a statement about the court filing, Maura McInerney, Education Law Center legal director, sums up the current state of school funding in PA, “Our affidavits from school districts, parents, and an economist make clear not only that the state has failed to fix a broken funding system, but conditions are actually getting worse, with painful consequences for school children. Petitioner school districts don’t have sufficient funding to hire desperately needed teachers and support staff, repair crumbling facilities, or provide critical educational programming. This problem will not be fixed until additional money is added to the education budget.”
A recent survey of school districts conducted by the Pennsylvania Association of School Superintendents and the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials demonstrates that the harm caused to students by inadequate state funding extends far beyond the school districts that are part of the school funding lawsuit. This survey found that in the next school year:
- 77 percent of school districts are planning to increase property taxes
- 39 percent plan to increase class sizes
- 47 percent do not intend to fill vacant positions as a result of retirements or resignations.
- 24 percent plan to reduce or eliminate elective classes and 12 percent plan to reduce or eliminate summer school.
Every child deserves to go to a quality school need to pay attention to who supports Pennsylvania’s public schoolchildren and who doesn’t. As the lawsuit progresses, we need to continue holding individuals in positions of power accountable for fixing Pennsylvania’s broken system by providing funding and enacting policies that are sensible and fair to all.