President Arthur Steinberg
Remarks at First Step Plan Press Conference as prepared – Thursday, March 2, 2023
Good afternoon. I’m Arthur Steinberg, President of AFT Pennsylvania which represents 36,000 teachers, paraprofessionals, school staff, higher education faculty and staff, and state workers across 64 local unions, including the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, where I also serve as an officer.
I want to thank Senator Vincent Hughes for his consistent advocacy for the needs of our schools, our students, and our educators over many, many years.
As has been said, a few weeks ago, the Commonwealth Court dealt an historic victory for Pennsylvania’s students, families, and its communities. Finally, what we have known for decades has been affirmed in a judicial opinion: Pennsylvania’s system of public education does not meet the constitutional standard of ‘thorough and efficient.’ We have also known that all children are able to learn if provided the resources to thrive. But, for too long, we have had two separate education systems: one for wealthy districts and one for underprivileged districts.
The final sentence of Judge Cohn Jubilerer’s opinion in the school funding case is prescriptive: “All witnesses agree that every child can learn. It is now the obligation of the
Legislature, Executive Branch, and educators, to make the constitutional promise a
reality in this Commonwealth.” That’s why we are here today with Senator Hughes—because we need legislators like him who have the vision to see what implications this lawsuit, along with a new more favorable legislature, will do to school funding.
I am especially heartened to see 100 million dollars in much-needed mental health supports for students, restoring 275 million in charter school reimbursement to all 499 school districts, and near and dear to my heart, a billion-dollar line item from the rainy-day fund for school facilities. As anyone who’s been listening to anyone here for the past decade or more knows it’s been raining in our schools since 2011—in some cases very literally.
We look forward to working with Senator Hughes, his colleagues, and Governor Shapiro to ensure that this money gets to the districts and into the classrooms that need it most.