Kelly Lewis, one of the founders of Equity First says underfunding school districts can put a huge strain on them, and can result in some extreme measures to solve the problem.
“There’s 138 school districts that are underfunded. There’s 19 school districts that are severely underfunded by 10 million dollars or more,” said Lewis.
According to Equity First, those 19 school districts are underfunded by a total of $931 million. They include Wilkes-Barre, underfunded by more than $33 million, Harrisburg $38 million, and York $51 million. Nothing compares to the Allentown City School District, underfunded to the tune of over $80 million.
“Large minority populations, very large special education populations. They really have a tough nut to crack, and they’re underfunded,” said Lewis. “Potentially cutting kindergarten or reducing it to half day. Lots of preschool programs aren’t offered in these city school districts.”
Equity First is pushing lawmakers to adopt a four to six year plan to fix it. The measure would call for $400 million in new basic education funding, and $80 million in new special education funding.
Senator Mensch has introduced a bill that would send 75% of that new funding to the underfunded schools, and the other 25% going to all 500 districts.
“That way, everybody gets a little bit, and the severely underfunded schools catch up to where they should be,” said Lewis.
Senator Mensch’s bill has not yet been officially introduced, but Lewis hopes to see it pass this legislative year.