Last week, the Basic Education Funding Commission – a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers tasked with evaluating Pennsylvania’s public education funding formula – adopted its final report on party lines, with all 8 Democratic Commissioners voting for the plan and all 7 Republican Commissioners voting against it while offering their own report.
The PA Chamber appreciated the opportunity to testify before the Commission this past November, where we shared the business community’s perspective. Following issuance of the final report, we issued the following statement:
“We applaud the Basic Education Funding Commission and its members for their time, attention, and commitment to hearing from a range of stakeholders, including the PA Chamber, during their review of the Commonwealth’s funding of public education. On behalf of our nearly 10,000 members, we appreciated the opportunity to testify before the Commission this past November and share the business community’s perspective.
“The goal of our education system is to equip the next generation of Pennsylvania’s entrepreneurs, business leaders, and talented workforce with the skills necessary for the job market of today as well as tomorrow. Appropriate state funding is important to achieving this goal, but simply spending money should not be pursued as a goal in and of itself. We are disappointed that the Commission’s adopted report lacks important accountability measures and popular programs, like the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program and Pennsylvania Award for Student Success (PASS) program, that enable students to pursue an education that fits their needs. We urge the General Assembly and Governor Shapiro to emphasize policies that prioritize student outcomes and maximize taxpayers’ current robust investment, including embracing rigorous standards and a system of accountability focused on student performance.
“Currently, Pennsylvania students are struggling to achieve proficiency in math and science despite the seventh highest per pupil expenditure in the country. Pennsylvania students deserve systematic change that prioritizes outcomes rather than financial inputs. In her Commonwealth Court Decision, Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer emphasized this point, writing, ‘Nothing in the foregoing opinion undermines the ability of the General Assembly to continue providing local control to school boards or infringes on any of the sister branches of government’s authority. Nor does it require reform to be entirely financial.’
“We urge lawmakers to embrace this sentiment and engage in a comprehensive discussion on Pennsylvania’s public education system. While this discussion should include funding levels, it should focus on maximizing existing funding and developing the systemic reforms necessary to ensure Pennsylvania children receive a quality education that prepares them for future success.”