Advocacy

The AAUW Easton Branch advocates for fair and equitable funding for all Pennsylvania public schools.

The Op-Ed piece sent to the Morning Call and Express Times on December 10, 2021:

   Fair and Equitable Funding for Every Pennsylvania Public School Student

The facts about the state of education in Pennsylvania: parents want their children to have a K-12 educational experience that prepares them for successful life after graduation, further education, a productive and meaningful career, a contributing role and a respected place in their communities. School boards and superintendents want to have the resources it takes to make this happen. Tax payers want their share of funding these resources to be fair and reasonable.  All want the Pennsylvania legislature to provide the adequate and equitable funding required by the Pennsylvania Constitution’s promise of a right to a “thorough and efficient” education. 

The question is “what is it going to take to give so many what they want?” Today there is  reason for some hope. After years of failed efforts to achieve this goal, a lawsuit has been filed by legal advocates on behalf of families and school districts. Organizations throughout Pennsylvania  are taking action in support of equitable funding and the lawsuit. The suit argues that PA fails to provide the funding required to assure that public schools in PA are able to meet the legislated standards for providing students with a “thorough and efficient “ education. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has convened hearings on the suit and at the conclusion of these hearings, will issue a ruling.  

  In its second week of hearings, the PA Supreme Court heard testimony from  former deputy secretary of elementary and secondary education for the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) Matthew Stem. He testified that the state’s academic standards are appropriately rigorous but emphasized  that unequal funding between low-wealth and high-wealth school districts is a critical factor in the disparate academic outcomes for students in racial and economically disadvantaged districts.

 To emphasize the economic barriers faced by districts with a minimal tax base is not to ignore the burden on property tax payers in suburban communities nor the limitations on schools in these communities by the legislative skimping on education in all districts in PA. It does call attention, however, to the fact that the issue is as much about equity as it is about funding.  At stake is funding that respects diversity and  assures equity. It is about giving all students not just the necessary funding support; it is as much about the capacity that a school can have to demonstrate equity.  As a Resolution from the NAACP **puts it, “ Whereas all students deserve equitable conditions for learning to reach their full potential; … we must build an informed, empowered and engaged generation of students who understand their history and are equipped to talk about the challenges of racism to build stronger communities, heal from intergenerational trauma, ensure the integrity of the fair funding formula and assure system racism associated with underfunding and under-resourcing is not continued. “

While this lawsuit offers some hope, it is not a guarantee of success. The ultimate burden of responsibility for funding rests with the Pennsylvania Senate and House and the Governor. However,  in anticipation of a positive outcome of the lawsuit, it  is not too early to recognize the influence that public opinion and action might have on our legislators.  To that end any number of options and opportunities are available to us, the public.  On December 14th, for example, citizens from across PA will gather at the Capitol in Harrisburg to give testimony about effects of under-resourcing  on students and teachers and to urge legislators to act to make possible “a thorough and efficient education” for every child in Pennsylvania’s  public school system.

In addition, a number of organizations are circulating petitions in support of “fair and equitable funding,” to be delivered to Governor Wolf, the PA Secretary of Education, and the PA Senate and House majority leaders. To learn more about school funding and find petitions and additional option actions, you can go to Education Voters of Pennsylvania at https://edvoterspa.org or Fund Our Schools PA at https://www.fundourschoolspa.org 

 As members of AAUW, a  non-profit, national organization whose mission is to advance gender equity for women and girls through research, education, and advocacy, we members in AAUW-Easton urge you to join us in advocacy for the equitable education that every child in Pennsylvania deserves and we all want.         

** To find the entire Resolution concerning Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging,” PA State Conference on October 23, 2021 of the NAACP” go to https://easton-pa.aauw.net or see below.

Signed,
The Board of AAUW-Easton

We support the Pennsylvania NAACP in their resolution concerning diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.

Resolution Concerning Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging

  • Whereas all students deserve equitable conditions for learning to reach their full potential.
  • Whereas all students deserve a deep sense of belonging, which is brought about by seeing themselves represented in staff, curriculum, and opportunity.
  • Whereas we must build an informed, empowered, and engaged generation of students who understand their history and are equipped to talk about the challenges of racism to build stronger communities, heal from intergenerational trauma, ensure the integrity of the fair funding formula, and assure systemic racism associated with underfunding and under-resourcing is not continued.
  • Whereas students will be better prepared for life if they have had the opportunity to discuss race and to listen to the voices of those who have had different experiences than themselves. Students are more likely to engage in compelling and complex modes of thought when they encounter new or novel situations that challenge current and comfortable ways of thinking.
  • Whereas these lessons interrupt generational racism.
  • Whereas Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging should inform all aspects of education, from curriculum to purchasing to contracts.
  • Whereas School directors and administrators shall know when and how policies benefit one group over another and not perpetuate the discrimination of marginalized groups.
  • Whereas Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion do not advocate teaching students or anyone that one race is superior or inferior. Nor does it blame students and claim that they are responsible for the past actions of people who share the same ethnicity, nor does it mean that one group will get less since equity ensures that each student receives what they need to succeed.
  • Whereas these efforts are necessary to ensure that every child receives what they require to obtain a high-quality education regardless of their race, ethnicity, economic circumstances, gender, disability, history of trauma, or other factors
  • Whereas school districts shall be identifying and recruiting nontraditional staff recruitment opportunities to diversify their teaching staff.
  • Whereas School districts, under state laws, are responsible for ensuring that factors arising from race, ethnicity, gender, class, disability, homelessness, and other circumstances do not limit any student’s ability to access and benefit from district programs.

Therefore, be it resolved, that because of its short and long-term benefits to students and the population in general, the PA State Conference on October 23, 2021 of the NAACP is calling for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging to be the Mission, Vision, and Standard Practice in all schools in the Commonwealth of PA.