RESOLUTION URGING THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY TO ADOPT AN EDUCATIONAL FUNDING FORMULA TO PROVIDE ADEQUATE FUNDING FOR STUDENTS IN ALL DISTRICTS

WHEREAS, access to quality public education is vitally important to the lives of students in the Philadelphia region, their long-term general and economic well-being, and their future ability to become self sufficient and to care for their families, and

WHEREAS, an adequately funded public education system is essential for an informed citizenry who can vote, serve as jurors in the legal system, and otherwise participate in the political and legal systems of the Philadelphia region and this Commonwealth; and

WHEREAS, lawyers and judges in the Philadelphia region see an ever increasing number of children in juvenile court and elsewhere who have dropped out of the education system, are at risk of doing so, or are in need of educational and related services beyond the financial capacity of their school districts; and

WHEREAS, a high percentage of persons incarcerated in prisons in the Philadelphia region have limited skills in reading and basic math, have failed to graduate from high school and are unable to qualify for jobs requiring a high school degree and technological literacy; and

WHEREAS, quality education is vital to the economy of the Philadelphia region, enhancing its ability to attract and retain businesses by creating a well-educated work force; and

WHEREAS, students in The School District of Philadelphia compete in the same labor market as students from the 61 school districts in the surrounding four Pennsylvania counties but the District has $2,054 per student less to spend than the average neighboring district, and $9,600 less per student than the top spending school district, although Philadelphia’s students often have greater needs and less family and community support; and

WHEREAS, significant funding disparities among school districts in the Philadelphia region prevent students in Philadelphia's school district, and the region's other less well-funded districts, from obtaining the small class sizes, sufficient books, materials and up-to-date science equipment, well trained teachers, advanced placement classes, and modern buildings necessary for academic success that are available in more adequately funded districts; and

WHEREAS, significant funding disparities among school districts in the Philadelphia region cause families in search of quality education to move further away from the region’s economic centers and public transportation, increasing the challenges of suburban sprawl in the Philadelphia region; and

WHEREAS, adequate funding to school districts in Philadelphia and its inner-ring suburbs would make efficient use of existing transportation resources and infrastructure, reducing commuting distance and sprawl; and

WHEREAS, Article III, Section 14 of the Pennsylvania Constitution requires that the General Assembly provide for "the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education"; and

WHEREAS, the thorough and efficient system of public education required by the state Constitution cannot exist with such gross disparities in opportunity for all students depending solely on the wealth of the district where they live, their socioeconomic status or their race; and

WHEREAS, the Commonwealth's ad hoc system of education funding in effect since 1991 has not adequately taken into account the changing number of students, students with increased educational needs, or other cost factors; and

WHEREAS, the General Assembly directed the preparation of a Cost of Adequate Education Study to determine the financial needs of each school district in order to meet state and federal proficiency standards for all students; and
WHEREAS, that Study found: (1) most districts in the state (471 out of 501) need significantly increased funding to adequately meet those proficiency standards, and (2) there is significant inequality in educational resources available to students due to the dependence on local funding and the vast disparities in wealth between districts; and

WHEREAS, Pennsylvania's share of education costs (36%) ranks it 44th among the 50 states; and

WHEREAS, to address each district's need for increased funds found by the Cost of Adequate Education Study, the Governor has proposed a six-year program to provide state funds in accordance with the relative financial capacity of each district and its tax effort, along with accountability measures to assure their effective use;

AND WHEREAS, the Administration's proposal neither reduces existing state funding for any district nor interferes with the existing ability of districts to raise and spend local funds; and

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Philadelphia Bar Association concludes that adequate public education of all the Commonwealth’s students without regard to where they live is essential to the welfare of the government, economy and citizenry of the Philadelphia region and this Commonwealth, and to the administration of justice.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the General Assembly is urged to promptly enact an educational funding formula that provides all districts with adequate resources to meet state proficiency standards, in accordance with the Cost of Adequate Education Study, and to adopt a six-year plan for the funding of the state share so that districts have predictable and adequate state revenues in order to effectively and efficiently meet their students' needs.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT, the Governor and the General Assembly are urged to work together to produce the best possible result for the students of the Philadelphia region and all of Pennsylvania, ensuring that all students receive an adequate public education without regard to where they live.

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association is authorized to take whatever steps are necessary to effectuate this resolution and to communicate its content to the Pennsylvania General Assembly, the Governor, the media, Philadelphia Bar Association members, the general public, and whomsoever he deems appropriate.

PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION
BOARD OF GOVERNORS
ADOPTED, May 29, 2008

View the Bar Association's Letter to the Pennsylvania General Assembly on Education Funding.