(WHTM) — Education advocates are demanding action from state lawmakers to invest more money in public schools. The call for more funding comes after a Commonwealth Court ruling that Pennsylvania does not adequately — or equitably — fund public education.
Educators said the court ruling is a major step, but the issue of funding requires action from Governor Josh Shapiro and the legislature. They say a solution is long overdue.
Camp Hill social studies teacher Cory Hulsizer has his dream job.
“It’s just such a great joy,” he said. “Truly, ever since that moment in middle school, I wanted to be a teacher.”
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However, over the years, he’s seen the dire need for more school funding.
“I was so surprised to see that over 80 percent of the schools in Pennsylvania are considered inadequately funded,” Hulsizer said.
The need exists even in Camp Hill, which Hulsizer said is a more affluent district, with other sources of support including a charitable foundation.
“We’re not usually thought about as an inadequately funded district, but according to the state’s own standard, we are,” he said.
A researcher compiled data on school funding for the lawsuit against state education officials the court just ruled on, and according to that data, Hulsizer’s 7th-grade class alone is missing over $122,000.
“That $122,000 may have allowed us to hire a full-time mental health counselor or an additional school psychologist who’d be able to follow up with my students who are ranking themselves as a one out of five on their weekly mental health check-ins,” Hulsizer said.
Still, he said his district is one of the lucky ones.
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“There are districts around, like I said, who are underfunded at three to four times the amount that we’re underfunded,” he said.
Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court just ruled against the state in that lawsuit, saying officials need to better fund public schools.
“We need that extra impetus to actually do what we need to do,” Hulsizer said of the court’s decision.
Now advocates are demanding action.
“Let’s do it for our kids,” said Laura Boyce, Pennsylvania Executive Director for Teach Plus.
They want the governor and the legislature to start making a dent in the $4 billion shortfall in 2023.
“Are you going to treat my future like a political football, or are you going to give my school the resources I need to succeed this year, this budget, before it’s too late for me?” Boyce questioned.
It is a big number, so advocates say they want the $4 billion to be invested in schools over four years, but it has to start today.
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“I am here today to call upon Governor Shapiro and the Pennsylvania General Assembly to go big in this year’s budget,” Hulsizer said.
Governor Shapiro will present his first budget to the General Assembly on March 7, and advocates said they will be watching closely to see if he makes the investment they want in public schools.