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Your View: How you can help end 'education apartheid’ in Pennsylvania

On May 17, the nation commemorated the 65th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that having separate schools for Black and White students is inherently unequal. The landmark decision was seen as a major victory in the civil rights movement.But sadly, Brown’s legacy is not fully realized today, surrounded as we are by lack of educational opportunities for Black and Latinx students. School integration, as a strategy to access equal educational resources, was limited in what it could achieve. Although school integration reached its peak in the 1970s, it has been in decline since, largely due to the court’s ruling in Board of Education of Oklahoma City v. Dowell, which released districts from court oversight if they had achieved integration. With districts no longer under court order to integrate, today’s levels of school segregation have returned to those of the 1960s.Yet as many activists understand, integration was never the end goal, and so advocates of racial equality in education continue to fight the good fight. Equal educational opportunity is now waged on other grounds: securing adequate and equitable school funding. POWER Interfaith, a statewide faith-based organization, is one such organization working to pressure state legislators to change unjust school funding policies.In 2016, Pennsylvania enacted a fair funding formula that takes student need into account when considering how much districts should get. The problem is, because this only applies to new money — that is, increases to the state budget — less than 10% of the state’s basic education budget goes through the fair funding formula. That means more than 90% of state funding is distributed inequitably.Funding disparities among districts are not simply economic, they discriminate based on race.According to a POWER analysis, students in the least White Pennsylvania districts receive $2,100 less per student than the state funding formula says they should receive. In contrast, students in the Whitest districts are given $2,100 more than the formula determines they should have.A high school student in Pottstown explained the effects of inequitable funding on his future. He worried that the lack of Advanced Placement course offerings at his school would put him at a disadvantage compared to other students who had the privilege of taking AP courses in their adequately funded high schools.According to POWER research, cities including Pottstown, York, Lancaster, Reading and Allentown receive between $13 million to $110 million less than their fair share. Philadelphia is getting a whopping $344 million less than what it deserves.Inadequate and inequitable school funding is not just a Pennsylvania problem; it’s a national problem. School funding lawsuits have been filed in 45 out of 50 states. While these lawsuits are important in advancing equality, there’s only so much they can accomplish. Judges may not rule in favor of plaintiffs, and even if they do, it often takes years, sometimes decades, to craft and implement remedy plans.Our children’s education cannot wait.That’s why POWER has taken this fight to the state Capitol. We are pressuring state representatives and senators in Pennsylvania to enact a law that funnels 100% of education money through the state’s fair funding formula. Currently, two bills introduced by Rep. Chris Rabb and Sen. Lisa Boscola — HB 961 and SB 362 — aim to do just that. But they need the support of everyday Pennsylvanians to turn these bills into law.We can make our voices heard.POWER is organizing a rally in Harrisburg on June 12 to pressure state legislators. We are issuing them a mandate to change Pennsylvania’s racially unjust system of school funding. We plan to have 1,000 plus people standing in solidarity to end education apartheid in Pennsylvania. Will you join us? Will you contact your state legislators to tell them to support the bills?As we commemorate Brown v. Board of Education, let’s create a new legacy for our children — let’s give them an inheritance of hope through equitable school funding.This op-ed was written by the following members of POWER, a nonprofit, interfaith organization: Phyllis Alexander, Nicole Johns, Renee Burgos, Marlene Armato, Andrea Moselle, Wilhelmina Young, Duane Coleman and Matt Lenahan.
Source: Morningcall

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