Times Chronicle & Public Spirit

Fight to correct inequities of public-school funding

- By Dr. Myra Forrest Education Advocate Pottstown Area Health and Wellness Foundation Link to join today’s Forum and videos of past Forums can be accessed on the First Baptist Church of Pottstown website, www. FBCpottsto­wn.org.

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.

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