Local students, educators and activists alike are calling on state Rep. Frank Farry to support a significant uptick in education funding.
Earlier this month, POWER Bucks County, part of POWER Interfaith, a statewide, faith-rooted racial and economic justice organization, organized a rally outside Farry’s Langhorne office.
Attendees wanted to raise awareness of a proposed $1.55 billion increase, including $300 million that targets money to the state’s 100 least resourced districts, where the majority of students are minorities and economically disadvantaged.
The group highlighted the state’s budget surplus, large “rainy day fund” and remaining COVID funding, which attendees said make it the perfect time to increase education funding. Cheers of, “This is the year!,” could be heard.
Melody Katz, of Yardley, shared how 10 of the 13 districts in Bucks County are underfunded.
Bristol Township School District, she said, is underfunded by almost $4,500 per student, and Bensalem by more than $2,600 per student. Pennsbury and Centennial need more than $1,000 per student.
Educator Erica Waller-Hill, of Bristol, explained that school funding is directly related to student achievement. Her program Destined for a Dream works with children of color whose underfunded districts are unable to meet their needs. One-hundred percent of Destined for a Dream participants graduate from high school, according to Waller-Hill.
Retired educator Janis Bader painted a picture of how an underfunded school may operate.
“Imagine a student in a classroom with lots of desks and lots of students, more than in other schools. That student has her hand up for help from the teacher, but the busy teacher helping other students doesn’t get to her before the end of class,” she said. “Her school has had to cut the reading specialist and the counselor. No advanced placement classes are offered to keep the high achieving students engaged.”
Patricia McBee, of Newtown, an organizer of the rally, read a statement from state Rep. Tina Davis: “The proposal from Gov. Wolf for $1.75 billion is going in the right direction to allow districts across the commonwealth to adequately support their students’ needs. Now is the time to make the necessary investment in our children and our future … I am glad to stand in support of this proposed funding.”
McBee urged attendees to contact Farry and other legislators.
She said, “Tell them that you expect them to support the education budget. Tell them that our children need their support. Tell them that you vote.”
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org