The Pennsylvania Business Council believes the commonwealth’s public schools must be provided with funding adequate to educate our students to the level of proficiency required by our state academic standards and graduation requirements.
All Pennsylvania students should graduate from high school prepared to be successful in post-secondary education and careers. Adequate, fair, predictable state funding of basic education is essential to Pennsylvania’s competitiveness. The Pennsylvania Business Council shares with many others several basic principles of school funding:
- Funding must be adequate: adequate to provide an education that takes all of our students to the level expected by our state academic standards and assessed by our graduation requirements; adequate in the aggregate for our state system; adequate to the requirements of each school district; adequate to the needs of each school building; adequate to give equal educational opportunity to every Pennsylvania student.
- Funding must be fair: fair to taxpayers who are already burdened; fair in a manner that appropriately balances state and local resources; fair to school districts who have done their best to be frugal and effective with tax dollars; fair to students whose needs are determined by so many widely varying issues and conditions.
- Funding must be predictable: predictable so school administrators can plan appropriately over a reasonable time horizon; predictable so taxpayers are not subject to wild swings in their local tax demands; predictable so that principals and teachers will know what resources they will have available to them.
- Funding must be coupled to accountability: state and local resources are constrained; the Pennsylvania Business Council joins those who believe we must have full fiscal accountability and performance accountability for taxpayer resources — whether those resources be collected and dispensed by the federal, state or local school governments. Adequacy demands accountability. Accountability requires adequacy.
Taxpayers deserve to know everything possible is being done to contain and reduce the cost of basic education as well. School districts are faced with mounting unfunded pension debt. The commonwealth needs to make sure that it has a sustainable pension system that is fair to pension recipients and fair to taxpayers. School districts should be relieved of mandates, so long as that relief does not threaten the health or welfare of students. School districts should have the authority and power to make personnel decisions based on qualifications, skill, ability and need rather than seniority alone.
Students and their parents must know that funds allocated actually reach the young people for whom the funds are intended. The Pennsylvania Business Council demands building-level accountability for programmatic spending, personnel allocation, fiscal stewardship and education outcomes.
The Pennsylvania Business Council’s www.pascorecard.com shows that in recent years, the commonwealth’s students are becoming more proficient in educational fundamentals such as language arts and mathematics as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Our high school graduation rates are improving, and more Pennsylvanians are attaining bachelor degrees.
Funding alone will not improve Pennsylvania’s education system and ensure us of a population that is ready for post-secondary education and training; ready for careers; and ultimately ready to be productive citizens in a democratic society. We have long known that parental and family — however defined — involvement in supporting education is a fundamental determinant of student success. Adequate, fair, predictable basic education funding is required, but does not replace strong family and community support for education.
We have long known that teacher quality is a determinant of student success. Training, recruiting, employing, retraining, motivating and equipping high quality teachers takes funds. But money alone doesn’t make great teachers. We have for several decades largely agreed that schools need rigorous academic standards; that these standards need to be uniform across the commonwealth; and that we ensure that all students are educated to meet the threshold set by the standards.
We cannot discuss the financing of the state’s share of public basic education in any context other than General Fund appropriations with revenues derived from the broadest and most inclusive sources.
All of us — local and state taxpayers, individuals and businesses, parents and neighbors — share the responsibility for making sure that all our children have a fair opportunity to meet the academic standards they need to succeed. All of us share responsibility for building a future workforce that is productive and competitive with the rest of the world, so that we can all move forward.
Area residents are invited to a community meeting about public school funding in Cumberland County at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Grace Millman Pollock Performing Arts Center, 340 Northern 21st Street, Camp Hill.
The event is hosted by Education Voters of Pennsylvania and Education Matters in the Cumberland Valley. I will be a guest speaker, as will area school superintendents and school leaders.