Distressed schools across Pa. join together to push for $100 million relief

A new coalition of more than a dozen education advocacy organizations, teachers, students, and leaders from across the state are demanding $100 million for Pennsylvania’s 100 most distressed school districts.

“There is no area of Pennsylvania that is untouched by this,” said State Rep. Mike Schlossberg (D-Lehigh) at a press conference Thursday launching the Level Up campaign.

Schlossberg drew parallels between schools in rural and urban areas, all of which he said lack adequate resources. Schools in Blacklick Valley in Cambria County, he said, “have more in common with Allentown, Philadelphia, and Reading than many people realize.”

The campaign launches amid Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposal for a $1.35 billion increase to the state’s K-12 education funding. Wolf has called for that boost as a way to redistribute the entire basic education subsidy in a way that would give the state’s neediest districts significantly more support without taking resources away from any other schools.

Currently, only 11% of that subsidy is run through a formula based on school and student needs.

GOP leaders declared Wolf’s plan, which hinges on a personal income tax hike, “dead on arrival” when he pitched it in February. The new campaign is supportive of Wolf’s proposal but offers this more modest plan as an alternative, targeting the districts the state formula sees as the most underfunded.

Schlossberg said it’s not the formula that’s the problem, but the pace of its use. “Our poorer students aren’t benefiting fast enough,” he said.

Superintendent Brian Polito, of the Erie City School District, said it would take 50 years for his schools to get adequately funded through the current formula.

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