Remarks at Save Our Schools Press Conference as prepared – July 31, 2023
I’m incredibly encouraged to see the Pennsylvania House Speaker in a Philadelphia public school, something that hasn’t happened in a very long time. And Speaker Joanna McClinton and the Democratic Leadership Team should be commended for their steadfast support of public education at a time when it’s under sustained attack by right-wing politicians and the oligarchy.
I’ll be honest—it angered me to read the theme of this press conference, “Save Our Schools” because if the necessary investments in public education had been made by our state government for the past decade, we wouldn’t need to save them. Fortunately, we finally have a pro-public school, pro-labor majority in the House with he backbone to stand up to those who don’t agree with us.
Aside from saving the money that Republicans want to divert from public education to line the pockets of their campaign donors, our schools need significantly more money, and it needs to be distributed through the fair funding formula. Just in the operational needs of schools across Pennsylvania, we are short at least $4.6 billion a year in funding, which has led us to the dubious distinction of the most inequitable education funding system in the nation.
In Philadelphia alone, schools face $5 billion in deferred maintenance. That number continues to rise because we keep having to put off the work. And this isn’t just a Philadelphia problem. There are school buildings in abysmal condition in the suburbs, like in Southeast Delco School District to Scranton, Pittsburgh, and the South Hills; it’s an issue that plagues urban, suburban, and rural schools.
School facility investments have been proven to make improvements in student test scores, attendance, and effort. Plainly put, students who are learning in modern school buildings do better in school.
With a budget surplus of over $8 billion and an additional $5 billion in the rainy-day fund, right now is the time to get this done. Upgrading these facilities will create jobs and economic activity across the Commonwealth and provide every student in Pennsylvania with the school facilities they deserve.