County schools argue for fair schools funding


Chester County Intermediate Unit executive director, Dr. Joseph O’Brien, welcomes attendees of the local videoconference event, bringing school officials from across the region to discuss the state’s current funding formula.

DOWNINGTOWN — School leaders and educators across Pennsylvania participated in the virtual kick-off of the Campaign for Fair Education Funding on September 30. Dozens of Chester County superintendents, administrators and school board members joined the discussion via videoconference from the Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU). Approximately 850 participants tuned in from 29 Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Unit (PAIU) locations across Pennsylvania.

The videoconference event aimed to galvanize education leaders’ support for a fair education funding formula designed to ensure that every student across the state has access to quality education no matter where they live. The campaign’s objective is to have a fair and equitable basic education funding formula adopted by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania by 2016.

“The system we currently use to fund public schools is broken,” said Jim Buckheit, executive director of the PA Association of School Administrators (PASA). “It is unfair to students, unfair to local taxpayers and limits Pennsylvania’s economic future.”

Pennsylvania is one of three states nationwide that does not use a consistently applied school funding formula. About 34 percent of school funds come from the state, down from a high of 54 percent in 1974 and below the current national average of 44 percent. The remaining burden is placed on local property taxpayers, and according to Buckheit, therein lies the dilemma. In a state with “have and have not school districts,” poverty levels and population density are factors that should not be overlooked when allocating funds, he said.

“We need, we demand and we will build support for a fair and equitable funding formula in the next two years,” said

former state lawmaker Kathy Manderino, the campaign’s manager. “We have a lot of work to do both in Harrisburg with our elected officials and out in the community with our own constituencies, our friends and our neighbors.”

The kick-off event also introduced the 11 regional “circuit riders,” all veteran school leaders, who will travel throughout the state to engage school leaders in learning and advocacy on issues of fair school funding.

The two-year campaign is supported by a diverse coalition of more than 40 education advocacy organizations; teachers and administrators; school board members; urban and rural interests; business groups and organized labor; faith-based groups; and community groups. It is sponsored by the five major education leadership organizations: Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA), Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO), Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA), Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools (PARSS) and the Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units (PAIU).

Connect with the campaign on social media with the hashtag #PAEdFunding.

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