Times Chronicle & Public Spirit
Fight to correct inequities of public-school funding
Discussion on the inequities of public-school funding is reaching a crescendo across the state. As a lifetime educator, I have never seen so many people so disturbed by the condition of the unfair and backward funding system in Pennsylvania. Our state is at the very bottom, #50, regarding providing funding to school districts in need, and 44th out of 50 in the overall funding of education in the United States. I am embarrassed by this data and would think our state senators and representatives would be as well, moving them to do something about it.
Pottstown, a small town in Montgomery County which has an extremely underfunded school district, has shown itself to be a leader in this fight for fairness. Media News Group has published article after article in our local newspaper, The Mercury, and shared editorials with newspapers in Delaware, Berks, Chester, and Bucks counties on this topic. Nancy March, a longtime Media News Group editor, and Evan Brandt, an extraordinary reporter, have written articles and editorials about this topic for many years, and we are grateful for their tireless efforts. Right now, there is a very large audience that is following all this information and is pushing for fairness, honesty, and truthfulness from our politicians on both sides of the aisle. Lawmakers are the ones who need to fix this well-known but ignored issue. This is a non-partisan problem.
Churches have also taken up the cause. The congregation of First Baptist Church of Pottstown is very community minded and has its pulse on social justice. This church created a social justice committee, and after months of discussion, decided to focus on the lack of funding equity for our schools, particularly as it applies to Pottstown School District.
As a member of First Baptist and in a professional role with the Pottstown Area Health and Wellness Foundation, I have created a case study of the local school district with data provided by Stephen Rodriguez, superintendent of Pottstown schools. It took me two months to complete the total picture of the district in the case study. This information was used in various ways during the past few months, but one of the most important ways was during a community forum on Fairness in Educational Equity Funding in Pennsylvania, shaped by First Baptist Church, and joined by other faith communities.
The presentations have included:
• David Mosenkis, POWER Interfaith, February 28;
• Stephen Rodriguez, Superintendent, Pottstown School District, March 7:
• Myra Forrest, Education Advocate, Pottstown
Area Health and Wellness Foundation, March 14;
• Laura Johnson, Pottstown School Board member and co-founder of Pennsylvanians for Fair Funding, March 21;
• State Rep. Joseph Ciresi, 146th District, and state Rep. Wendi Thomas, 178th District, March 28, and
• Maura McInerney, Legal Director, Education Law Center, Philadelphia, today, April 11, on the lawsuit against the state of Pennsylvania on behalf of underfunded school districts.
Today’s forum led by McInerney will conclude the series with a call to action.
Our eyes and ears are open to what is going in in Harrisburg regarding Fair Funding. We are watching both Republican and Democratic senators and representatives. This is an issue for all Pennsylvanians, regardless of town, income, faith or affiliation. More students in Pennsylvania are underfunded than overfunded, and ALL students deserve the best education possible. Think about the entire state and get involved. What has been happening for many years with school funding in Pennsylvania is unethical, immoral, and wrong, and only when citizens stand up and tell their lawmakers how wrong this is, change will be inspired. It is within the power of Pennsylvania citizens to see school funding fixed. Contact your legislators and tell them to do the right thing.