The House Democratic leadership team and Policy Committee joined students, teachers, and education advocates in Reading Tuesday morning for a tour of two local high school buildings and a discussion on education inequality in Pennsylvania.
“We’ve seen how underinvesting in public schools has impacted some Pennsylvania communities, but we can no longer afford to leave any student behind based on their ZIP code,” said House Speaker Joanna McClinton (D-Phila., Delaware) “Our state’s future depends on having a strong work force – and preparing that work force and inspiring our next generation of entrepreneurs, innovators and civic leaders starts today. Every student needs the opportunity to thrive.”
Members began the day with a tour of the Wyomissing Area High School, which offers students a plethora of learning resources and modern, state-of-the-art amenities. Members then traveled down the road to tour Reading Senior High School, the fourth-largest school district in the state, where students are offered fewer resources and updates and renovations are needed.
“The Wyomissing Area School District is doing a great job at educating their students, but I want the same opportunities that they have right here for my kids in the Reading School District,” said state Rep. Manny Guzman (D-Berks), who is a graduate of Reading High and formerly served on the Reading School Board. “I’m tired of walking around our hallways with ceiling tiles missing, with textbooks that are 20 years old. That’s not right, and we’re not going anywhere until all our schools across Pennsylvania are properly and equally funded.”
A Commonwealth Court judge ruled in February the state fell short of its constitutional obligation to students in the most underserved school districts, violating students’ rights to a “comprehensive, effective, and contemporary” education. The ruling noted, “educators credibly testified to lacking the very resources state officials have identified as essential to student achievement, some of which are as basic as safe and temperate facilities in which children can learn.”
“The General Assembly has a constitutional responsibility to fund education equitably for all children regardless of their ZIP code. When we think about education funding, we think about the children in those buildings whose education is in our hands,” said House Appropriations Chairman Jordan Harris (D-Phila.). “Right now, we’re doing our commonwealth a disservice because we’re not giving those young people the opportunity to live up to their potential. We’re here raising the flag once again to address this inadequacy because the future of Pennsylvania depends on it.”
House Democrats have passed a series of bills that address many of the problems facing Pennsylvania school districts, including balancing out funding for school districts, fixing crumbling schools, stopping the abusive charter school reimbursement scheme and much more. These measures all sit in the Republican-controlled state Senate awaiting further action.
“Toxic schools, poor funding, charter schools siphoning off tax dollars and calling them ‘profits’ – it’s all part of the slow and steady assault by Republicans on public education,” said House Majority Policy Committee Chairman Ryan Bizzarro (D-Erie). “House Democrats will not sit back and let our kids get robbed of the quality education that is their right. Enough is enough. It’s time to save our schools.”
House Democrats will continue the statewide education advocacy tour with stops in Centre County on Wednesday and Allegheny County on Thursday.