Educators call for fair funding for Pennsylvania schools amid state budget negotiations

Educators in Bucks County demanded full and fair funding of public education across the state in the wake of a judge's ruling that called the Commonwealth's funding formula ‘unconstitutional.’

Educators, community members, religious leaders and some students gathered outside William Tennent High School in Bucks County’s Centennial School District on Thusday to tout their message of fair and full funding for state schools. 

"I can tell you that our current system is inadequate and the quality of education one receives is too heavily dependent on the zip code they live in too heavily dependent on a zip code and property wealth," Superintendent of the Centennial School District Dr. Dana Bedden said.

The wealthier the community, the better the schools. In February, a state judge ruled Pennsylvania’s school funding model is "unconstitutional", saying that it denies students in poorer districts a quality education. These educators want more state money now, and they had students make the case.


Jamar Mitchell is a William Tennent High School senior on his way to Penn State to study engineering. Mitchell argued, "clubs, sports and other extracurricular activities are not being funded in an equitable manner. So, students across the state are not at a level playing field." 

Governor Josh Shapiro is offering a nearly $570M increase in basic education funding and a $104M dollar jump in spending for special education, calling it a "downpayment" in a "multistep" plan to invest in schools.

That seemingly large investment in public education was not received well by a local children's advocacy group. Children First on Thursday called for a $700M increase in basic funding, $300M for the 100 poorest schools, and over $236M for special education programs. 

"School districts across the county are repeatedly raising local taxes to try to make up for what the state is failing to fund," ChildrensFirstPA Educational Policy Director Priyanka Reyes-Kaura said.

Meanwhile, under the Capitol Dome in Harrisburg, legislators continue to work on the state budget. Today’s press conference at William Tennent serves as a long-distance lobbing effort with educators speaking of homeless students and the emotional challenges prompted by the pandemic. There are billions in state surplus money they argue, and they want a chunk ASAP.

When reached for comment, Office of the Majority Leader Matt Bradford's Press Secretary Elizabeth Rementer said the following: 

House Democrats have long prioritized investing significantly in public education and have championed record increases in funding under the previous administration. Budget negotiations are still in early stages but we will continue to focus on this priority, which not only supports our education system but eases the burden on taxpayers. Further, we recognize that we have a constitutional obligation to adequately fund education in light of the Commonwealth Court ruling earlier this year. The current budget proposal represents a down payment on this obligation but we know it will take multiple budget cycles to undo decades of underfunding. We’re committed to fulfilling this obligation and we look forward to working with our colleagues and the governor on this critical issue.