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Campaign for education funding draws broad support statewide

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

More than 40 organizations joined forces in early October for a statewide campaign calling for a fair education funding formula and access to quality education for every child no matter where in Pennsylvania they live.

Known as the Campaign for Fair Education Funding, the coalition has a mission of ensuring that by 2016 Pennsylvania adopts a K-12 public education funding system that is “adequate and equitable,” with a focus on the importance of accuracy, stability for students and schools, shared responsibility, and strong accountability standards.

“Every child deserves a chance to succeed,” said campaign manager Kathy Manderino at the press conference announcing the campaign. “We need a fair, sustainable and predictable method for funding public schools that recognizes the shared responsibility we all have – and the shared benefits we all receive – when every Pennsylvania child gets that opportunity.”

Member organizations, including businesses and faith-based groups, educators, school district representatives, and child advocates from across the state, agreed that proper resources are necessary so children can achieve success, and that a collective effort is imperative, according to a campaign statement.

In Philadelphia, the fair funding formula has been a topic of discussion for years, with many organizations having campaigned for a formula that was signed into law in 2008. That formula was amended out of law three years later.

The Education Law Center, one of the funding campaign members, worked hard to help get the earlier fair funding formula established. ELC communications director Brett Schaeffer said in an email that the organization’s involvement with the new funding campaign is an extension of its previous work.

“What we’ve seen is that the most vulnerable students — those in deep poverty, those learning English, those in foster care, those with a disability, those experiencing homelessness — are the students most harmed by inequitable funding,” Schaeffer said. “These are the students who we represent and who we will continue to fight for.”

Craig Robbins, executive director of ACTION United, another campaign member, called the impact that the current funding system has had on Philadelphia “dramatic.”

A funding formula would need to take into account the ability of local communities to pay, the poverty rate, and numbers of English language learners and special needs students, Robbins said. The next step for the campaign, he said, would be to figure out what “adequate” funding really looks like, and then to answer the question: Where will the funding come from?

“A place like Philadelphia, one of the poorest cities in America, needs to have a larger share of education dollars, and the state needs to increase its share of funding because locally we don’t have the tax base that some wealthier communities do.”

Further information on the Campaign for Fair Education Funding can be found at fairfundingpa.org.

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