The legislature should invest in education for all [column] | Local voices

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We are school board members from across the greater Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Our school districts range from small to large, rural to urban, well-resourced to under-resourced. Despite our varied backgrounds, we sincerely believe that full and fair funding for education is a prudent and successful investment in our community, and that the state legislature should lead the way in ensuring that every student in the he state has the educational resources it needs and deserves.

In our roles as both principals and, for some of us, parents, we have each seen the effect that educational investment has on the daily realities of our students. We see, time and time again, that access to educational resources makes the difference in whether students can thrive or their potential is not realized.

For example, those of us in the better-funded districts see that our students enjoy access to a wide range of advanced-level courses. This translates to a head start on post-secondary credits and better preparation for college. However, some of us see the opposite for our students – a paucity of AP courses available due to a lack of resources supporting these programs. Students who do not take these courses are missing out on a crucial opportunity due to conditions well beyond their control.

As we talk about the conditions in our various districts, the large-scale effects of underinvestment in schools become clear. We observe that while some students have easy access to school counselors, others have to share overwhelmed counselors with 500 or more students.

We have seen students flourish through an array of programs, but we are also seeing the demoralizing effects of severe cuts to already modestly funded arts, music, and foreign language programs. We observe that students in well-funded districts enjoy the blessing of safe and suitable facilities, the latest technology and up-to-date teaching materials. In contrast, students in poorly funded districts make do with toxic and dangerous buildings and inadequate supplies.

Given all of our on-the-ground experience in our districts, it’s no surprise that years of research confirm the economic and social value of quality education. For example, studies confirm that consistent investment in education results in increased graduation rates and college enrollment. These improved outcomes translate into better-paying jobs, greater economic stability, and less reliance on government aid for graduating students. They also encourage economic growth and tax revenue for our local communities and the Commonwealth.

Such improvements in outcomes are especially notable for students from low-income families, who rely on our public schools to provide them with access to opportunity and upward mobility and to help break cycles of generational poverty. In this way, a high quality education is essential and fundamental to the very concept of the American dream.

We find that the individual and statewide benefits of investing in full and equitable funding for public schools and all Commonwealth children are indisputable.

We call on the Pennsylvania Legislature to exercise wise stewardship of taxpayer dollars in the 2022-2023 budget by investing to ensure a high-quality education for every student.

This editorial was written by members of Pennsylvanians for Fair Funding, a coalition of parents, students, school board members, teachers, school administrators and constituents working for fair and equitable funding education for all students. It was co-signed by more than 50 elected school board members from across Pennsylvania, including Lauren VonStetten of the Columbia Borough School District, Kareena Rios of the Lancaster School District, and Nikki Rivera of the Manheim Township School District.

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