On February 7, 2023, Commonwealth Court ruled definitively that Pennsylvania’s school funding system is unconstitutional.
A month later Governor Shapiro stated during his budget address, “[The judge’s] remedy was for us to get around the table and come up with a solution that ensures every child has access to a thorough and efficient education.”
The table Governor Shapiro referred to in his budget address is the Basic Education Funding Commission (BEFC), a group of 12 legislators and three representatives from Governor Shapiro’s office.
On September 12th the BEFC began a series of 10 public hearings where they will gather testimony from education advocates and experts across the state. The BEFC will provide a report of its findings to the General Assembly by November 30, 2023.
To fulfill the Court’s mandate, the BEFC must not only review the distribution of funding via the Basic Education Funding Formula. It MUST identify how much each district needs for the state to meet its constitutional obligation that every student receives a “meaningful opportunity to succeed academically, socially, and civically.”
Advocates are closely watching the BEFC and will be grading the commission’s report based on its inclusion of the following criteria:
- Quantifiable goals for investment for each school district to ensure all students have access to a public education that prepares them for post-secondary education or gainful employment post-graduation, often referred to as adequacy targets.\;
- Funding targets that also address unmet needs beyond K-12 basic education funding (e.g. pre-K, special education, facilities);
- Fair and equitable “state share” for funding targets to ensure all districts can meet the needs of their students; and
- A reasonable timeline to meet the state share of those targets.
We were in Allentown to kick off the first BEFC hearing on September 12th!
We will need all hands on deck in helping ensure Governor Shapiro and BEFC members know that Pennsylvanians expect this commission to do its job and recommend a *constitutional* school funding system that will ensure ALL students have access to the resources they need to succeed.