ALLENTOWN, Pa. (WHTM) — State courts have ruled that Pennsylvania unfairly and unconstitutionally funds its public schools.
Lawmakers formed the Fair Funding Commission to come up with a fix, starting with testimony on Tuesday in Allentown.
Poorer districts like Allentown have maxed out tax bases and antiquated buildings. Twelve are more than a century old, which caused early dismissals due to heat for four days in a row.
“Our schools contain outdated mechanical electrical, plumbing, and fire protection systems as well nonexistent air conditioning,” Allentown School District Superintendent Dr. Carol Birks said. “Hours of missed learning for our students. Again, our suburban counterparts, they didn’t have that.”
The commission heard of toxic buildings, chronic underfunding, and charter school payments siphoning funds. A school funding expert testified it would take more than $6 billion to correct the decades of state funding that was incorrect. Democrats agree, but Republicans are skeptical.
“We now spend, of course, more than we have ever before, and yet we haven’t seen the results that many had hoped for,” Senator David Argall (R-Carbon/Luzerne/Schuylkill) said.
“We know that money matters for student outcomes and that when we increase spending, we will increase outcomes for students,” Dr. Matthew Kelly of Penn State University said.
The commission will crisscross the commonwealth in the coming weeks to try to solve a very complex equation.
“How do we take so many students who’ve been wronged by the Commonwealth and get them right to make a better Commonwealth?” Senator Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia) said.
Allentown’s superintendent said money matters but is convinced her district could be one of the best in the state, her kids could be getting the education the constitution requires.
“I believe that. We can’t do it without you. Without your help. Without your commitment,” Dr. Birks said.