Legislature should invest in the education of all [column] | Local Voices

We are board members from across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Our school districts range from small to large, from rural to urban, with good resources to underfunded. Despite the different contexts, each of us sincerely believes that full and equitable funding for education is a smart and fruitful investment in our community, and that the state legislature must be at the forefront of ensuring that every student in the state has the necessary educational resources and deserve.

In our roles as both school principals and, for some of us parents, each of us has been able to observe how investing in education has an impact on the daily realities of our students. We have repeatedly seen that access to educational resources depends on whether students can thrive or their potential remains unrealized.

For example, those of us in the best-funded counties see that our students benefit from access to a wide range of advanced training courses. This leads to odds on loans after high school and college readiness. However, some of us see the opposite for our students – the meager AP courses available due to the lack of resources that support these programs. Students without these courses lose a critical opportunity due to conditions that are beyond their control.

When we talk about the conditions in our different districts, the broad effects of insufficient investment in schools become apparent. We note that while some students have ready access to school counselors, others have to share overworked counselors with 500 or more students.

We’ve seen students thrive with a variety of programs, but we’re also seeing the demoralizing effects of major cuts to already modestly funded arts, music, and foreign language programs. We observe that students in well-funded areas enjoy the blessing of safe and suitable facilities, the latest technology and modern learning materials. In contrast, students in poorly funded areas manage toxic and unsafe buildings and inadequate materials.

Given all our field experience in our areas, it is not surprising that years of research confirm the economic and social value of quality education. For example, research confirms that consistent investment in education leads to an increase in the number of graduates and college admissions. These improved outcomes lead to higher-paying jobs, greater economic stability, and less reliance on state aid for graduates. They also stimulate economic growth and tax revenue for our local communities and the commonwealth.

The improvement in such outcomes is particularly noticeable for students from low-income families, who hope that our public schools will provide access to opportunities and upward mobility and help break the cycles of poverty of generations. Thus, quality education is important and fundamental to the very concept of the American dream.

We believe that the individual and nationwide benefits of investing in the full and equitable funding of public schools and all children throughout the Commonwealth are undeniable.

We urge the Pennsylvania legislature to wisely manage taxpayer dollars in the 2022-2023 budget by investing in providing a high-quality education for every student.

This article was written by members of the Pennsylvanians for Fair Funding, a coalition of parents, students, school board members, teachers, school administrators and voters working to provide fair and equitable funding for education for all students. It was signed by more than 50 elected board members from across Pennsylvania, including Lauren Von Steten of the Columbia School District, Carina Rias of the Lancaster School District and Nicki Rivera of the Mannheim School District.

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