For Immediate Release
August 21, 2017
Education Voters of PA
Media contacts: Susan Spicka
Susan Spicka, Executive Director of Education Voters of PA, made the following statement at a joint press conference with the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center:
For Pennsylvania public school parents, this is an exciting time of year. It is the season of back to school nights and open houses. We get to tour our children’s public schools, meet their new teachers, and learn about the exciting learning opportunities our children will receive. Many of us can’t wait for our children’s first day of school for a lot of reasons, but the main reason is that our communities’ public schools are where our kids will gain the skills and knowledge they need to have a bright future.
Teachers are also preparing for the new school year. They are getting their rooms ready, putting up bulletin boards, writing lesson plans, and preparing to welcome more than 1.7 million students back to PA’s public schools.
Many teachers are also getting class rosters with more students than they taught last year. They are returning to buildings with fewer colleagues and less support in their classrooms. They may find that they will spend more time teaching because elective and specials classes in their buildings have been eliminated. Textbooks and other materials they need to help students reach state standards may not exist in their buildings, so they will spend their own money on supplies and do the very best they can to ensure sure that all students will be in classrooms with what they need in order to have a great school year.
No matter the challenges they face, no matter the deprivation of resources and support, our teachers and students will do their jobs. Our teachers will teach and our students will go to school every day and work hard to learn.
Unfortunately, we cannot say the same for legislative leaders in the PA House. Majority leaders in the PA House aren’t working hard. They have every resource imaginable and they aren’t even trying to do their jobs. Instead, legislative leaders in the House are enjoying an extended, taxpayer-funded summer vacation while school districts hope the state will continue to make its payments to them and our Treasury issues warnings that soon it will need to take out massive, expensive loans to meet the state’s financial obligations.
This is the 7th year in a row that I have come to Harrisburg with this sign and I am here today to say that we are running out of time and cannot afford for PA House leaders to play politics with another budget standoff.
In school districts throughout PA, students have now spent more than half of their careers in public school schools that have enacted year after year after year of cuts. Some schools have lost so many teachers and eliminated so many programs that the schools students attend today barely resemble the schools their brothers and sisters attended just a few years ago.
Pennsylvania’s public schools are so under-resourced and have been under-resourced for so long that last year a professor at our local university remarked to me that many of his incoming freshmen don’t know what a library is.
If House leaders don’t take immediate action to end this budget impasse by supporting responsible new revenues, they will not only put school funding for this year at risk, they will put in jeopardy future funding increases for our public schools that will be critical if we hope that all PA students will have a shot at success.
Lost tax revenues coupled with steep borrowing costs will result in even bigger hole to fill in next year’s budget and less of a chance that lawmakers will make the critical investment in public education that our students desperately need.
As the Education Law Center wrote in a recent report, “Inequitable and inadequate school funding is not inevitable. Rather, this is the result of years of neglect, maintaining the status quo, and ignoring the tragic consequences to poor students, particularly children of color, of a deeply flawed school funding system.”
We call on the PA House to return to session immediately and to pass a revenue package with new, responsible, recurring revenues that will fund the 2017-2018 budget.