House Democratic Policy Committee: funding and consistency would improve student outcomes
HARRISBURG, March 2 -- State Reps. Liz Fiedler and Rick Krajewski hosted a House Democratic Policy Committee hearing Monday to highlight how an education budget focused on the people could best impact Pennsylvania students, especially the neediest populations.
The committee heard testimony from a panel of pre-k advocates, including Shalonda Spencer, director of Public Policy and Government Affairs, Trying Together; Damaris Alvarado-Rodriguez, CEO of Children's Playhouse Early Learning Center; and De’Wayne Drummond, president, Mantua Civic Association Parent Engagement Specialist, Head Start at Philadelphia School District. The panel shared concerns regarding workforce retention, low pay and the need for additional funding so they can increase pay for workers. The panel also described the devastating mental and emotional toll COVID-19 has taken on them, and on childcare center workers and families. They called for renewed investment in the care and education of Pennsylvania’s youngest residents.
“I am deeply invested in the equitable education of Pennsylvania’s children from birth on up. As a mother, it’s personal for me and as a legislator, it’s my mission to ensure our children have access to high-quality care and education,” Fiedler explained. “We must draw a line and refuse to let some children be viewed as less valuable than others by the General Assembly. That starts by valuing the labor of the workers who care for and educate them.”
Bizzarro added, “Pennsylvania’s children deserve consistency in their educational experience. It’s hard to achieve trust and comfort – all important to a student’s well-being -- when they’re losing their favorite teacher to a retail job that pays better. Investing in our teachers and support staff is an investment in Pennsylvanian’s children and future.”
David Mosenkis, the statewide Education Justice Team chair of POWER Interfaith; Angel Gober, western Pennsylvania organizing director of One Pennsylvania/Education Rights Network; Chris Forbes-Nicotera, a teacher in the Philadelphia Area School District; and Milka Uribe, parent of a Reading Area high school student and Make the Road PA member, testified on the K-12 education panel and highlighted how funding inequities personally harm students and communities. Uribe provided testimony in Spanish and highlighted how underserved her community is.
Testimony underscored the funding inequities in the state and their disproportionate impact on poor students and on black and brown children across the Commonwealth.
“I grew up in a neighborhood where a mobile police station was parked outside my local public school. As a child my mother fought to get me into a scholarship program for kids from low-income communities and it was that education that gave me a chance to thrive and become the person I am today,” Krajewski recounted. “I know many of the kids I grew up with, like many of the kids in my district, do not have the same opportunity to dream and to thrive. Every child deserves high-quality education in safe schools with teachers and staff that are well-compensated – that ought to be the standard."
According to the Pennsylvania School Board Association, the state ranks 44th in the country in state share of funding for public schools. The Public Interest Law Center gave the state a ‘D’ on its National Report Card of Education Funding.
Testimony and video from Monday’s hearing is available at www.pahouse.com/policycommittee.