This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
To the editors:
Pennsylvania now has a governor who has taken a bold step to put children at the center of the debate in Harrisburg, even admitting he doesn’t care if it makes him a one-term governor. It’s the right thing to do. But will this action for all of Pennsylvania’s children really happen?
I’ve traveled this state for many years and have seen first-hand the gross inequities among our schools resulting from the inability of our General Assembly to take statesman-like action in fixing our inequitable school finance system. For once in my lifetime, I dream of a debate anchored by the needs of children. Just imagine 253 legislators setting aside political differences and acting in good bi-partisan fashion to craft legislation that moves Pennsylvania ahead — with children leading the way.
We need to get behind the proposals for early childhood programs, full-day kindergarten, tutoring programs, professional development activities — and the taxes necessary to pay for them. However, we need to take it a step further.
To really meet the needs of Pennsylvania’s children, we need a school finance system that will be equitable, adequate, accountable, and predictable in future years. Let’s ask our General Assembly to not omit these critical pieces from the equation as legislation to implement the Governor’s plan is circulated and debated.
If the No Child Left Behind Act is to be taken seriously, schools and communities must have the resources to implement it properly. Not only should we hold our schools accountable for student achievement, but we must first hold our legislators accountable for adopting good policy that allows this to become a reality.
The tax shift from property taxes to state taxes is a good thing for our communities, taxpayers, and children. It’s time. In fact, it’s way past time.
Sandy Zelno, Associate Director
Pennsylvania School Reform Network