Equitable School Funding - A Must for Maintaining Pennsylvania’s Workforce
Workforce shortages across the commonwealth demand adequate funding for all schools
The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically impacted America’s workforce. In Pennsylvania, 382,000 jobs remain open, up nearly 26 percent from 2021. Current labor shortages paired with employers’ inability to find enough skilled workers to fill these (and future) positions is compounding present supply chain issues and threatening our overall economy, both today and in the future.
To maintain our economy, the commonwealth needs more skilled workers. Expected decreases in the state’s working-age population through the end of the decade mean that Pennsylvania must do everything it can to ensure that the next generation is prepared for the workforce. With the vast majority of children attending traditional K-12 and career and technical education schools, public education is a natural starting point of our school-to-workforce efforts. Adequately funding schools can help ensure that more students gain the knowledge and skills they need to be career- or college-ready. More and more studies show that, “more [education spending] consistently means better outcomes for students—higher test scores, higher graduation rates, and sometimes even higher wages as adults.” This is especially true when additional school funding is directed towards solving adequacy and equity gaps in higher-poverty school districts.
Pennsylvania has made progress in recent years by enacting a more equitable way to distribute new education funding based on student and community needs such as student enrollment and the percentage of students living in poverty. This formula also takes into account district size, wealth, and the local tax effort. However, this fair funding formula only applies to roughly 10 percent of the commonwealth’s K-12 funding. Lawmakers must now take the next step in approving greater long-term funding through the fair funding formula to ensure that all students, regardless of race and income, attend adequately and equitably funded schools. The attainment of high-level skills and the development of the future workforce begins in Pennsylvania’s public school classrooms.