Jill Sunday Bartoli: Equal opportunity to learn in the new school year
Pennsylvania has long had featured the greatest inequity between districts in the country. Elizabethtown College professor emerita Jill Sunday Bartoli wanted to know what the legislature was going to do about it.
I called my local state senator’s office about this inequity and asked why he is not supporting the “Level Up” funding meant for the 100 school districts with the greatest need, or the lowest wealth, in the commonwealth.
I was told two deceptive half-truths. First, I was told that Pennsylvania spends billions of dollars on education every year. What I wasn’t told was that Pennsylvania ranks near the bottom of the 50 states for the share of public education funding provided by the state. Only about 38% of the costs of public education are covered by the commonwealth; property taxes cover a significantly larger share.
I also wasn’t told that Pennsylvania legislators are the third-highest-paid in the nation, behind only their counterparts in California and New York, with base salaries that exceed $100,000 and lengthy summer vacations, as well as generous pensions and other benefits. State lawmakers like to say that “throwing money at a problem doesn’t work,” but they throw plenty of money at themselves.
I was told, however, that Pennsylvania Award for Student Success private-school tuition vouchers — a variation of so-called “lifeline” scholarships — were the answer to helping kids in poor schools.
Sure, throw a lifeline to a few kids for good education, and let all the rest drown. This is not what democracy looks like.