PHILADELPHIA − May 12, 2022 − With Pennsylvania sitting on more than $8 billion in excess revenue, and a dismal national ranking for school equity, state Sen. Vincent Hughes and Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler held a pre-budget school funding rally in South Philadelphia today to call for an end to stale excuses for failure to invest in schools.
In April, Pennsylvania collected more revenue than any month in its history, pushing the budget surplus past $8 billion, with May and June revenues still to come.
“We’ve been hearing for years from the majority party in Harrisburg that we don’t have the money to end the disparity and create opportunity for all students in Pennsylvania,” Hughes said. “Well, we have more money now than any time in the history of our commonwealth. If not now, when?”
Hughes and Fiedler, along with Sen. Nikil Saval, legislative colleagues, parents, students teachers and school employees rallied outside South Philadelphia’s Francis Scott Key Elementary School after school to call for an end to excuses and a new era of investment and equality for students in all schools.
“Right now, Pennsylvania has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to move the needle on public education. We can fully resource our schools, repair our crumbling buildings to be healthy and resilient, and alleviate the crushing long-standing burdens on school staff,” Saval said. “For decades our schools have weathered chronic disinvestment from our state and disrespect from the elected representatives who are supposed to be fighting for them. But enough is enough! Our state has a multibillion-dollar budgetary surplus. Our schools are at the heart of our communities, and we can make fully funded schools a reality for the sake of the students, families, teachers, and neighbors who depend on them.”
Participants in the rally said public-school students are desperate for increased supports – for more counselors, more teachers, more librarians, more building engineers, more cafeteria workers, more bus drivers – more trained professionals in their schools to ensure they’re being given the opportunities to succeed in a safe and healthy environment.
Additional participant testimonial:
“It’s time that our legislature take their constitutional responsibility seriously and finally ensure a thorough and efficient system of public education where all of our children have access to quality public education. Our current system is disproportionately harming PA’s Black and Brown students and students living in poverty. In Pennsylvania, the students who need the most get the least based on where they live. That’s unconstitutional. And our case has the potential to change the trajectory for generations of students in Pennsylvania! But the legislature doesn’t have to wait for a court decision. The time to act is now. In this year’s budget, the legislature must adequately and equitably fund public education.”
Deborah Gordon Klehr, Executive Director, Education Law Center
“Thanks to President Biden and his allies in Congress, our state government has never had so much money at its disposal. Pennsylvania House and Senate Republicans are hoarding it in the chance that their preferred gubernatorial candidate is elected and handing it out as tax breaks to wealthy people and corporations headquartered out of state. Instead, they should wake up and realize our schools need the money now. They need the money for remediation of toxins like lead, asbestos, and mold, and they need the money to ensure proper ventilation and physical distancing during a global health crisis that, despite our opposition’s best efforts, is still ongoing. The time is now. The money is there. Our students deserve for us to get it done.”
Arthur Steinberg, President of AFT Pennsylvania
“Our clients brought the school funding lawsuit because they believe in the promise of public education,” said Dan Urevick-Ackelsberg, staff attorney at the Public Interest Law Center. “Trial made it clearer than ever before that Pennsylvania does not live up to that promise, and it doesn’t have to be this way. Our leaders in Harrisburg should fund public schools like they believe in every student’s potential, no matter where they live.”
Dan Urevick-Ackelsberg, Staff Attorney, The Public Interest Law Center