Another White Apartheid Budget Set To Pass In Pennsylvania

Despite passage of the May 18, 2021 Constitutional Amendment on Equality of Rights, White Apartheid Power still rules in Pennsylvania.
Originally sold and branded as a policy known as “Hold-Harmless” this apartheid policy has single-handedly kept Basic Education funding in white school districts while blocking and delaying full funding to non-white school districts for 29-years!
At $6.1 Billion, Basic Education is the largest funding allocation in the State’s General Fund Budget. Act 35 of 2016, established the Basic Education Funding Formula Law. To date, this law has been blatantly disregarded.

Apartheid Funding: For 29-Years Pennsylvania has upheld a school funding regime nothing short of apartheid to keep funding, “as-is” despite dynamic changes in population, demographics, poverty, property values, and wealth.
Apartheid is a policy or system of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race.
Pennsylvania law allows for punitive damages in cases where the defendant’s acts are willful, malicious, showcase a wanton disregard for others’ safety, or have an evil motive. 
Now, despite the largest funding surpluses in the history of the Commonwealth, White Power rule in Pennsylvania continues to block implementation of Act 35 of 2016, the Basic Education Funding formula Law.
The Equality of Rights Constitutional Amendment
 The Equity First Plan for Basic Education MAY 18th PASSAGE OF CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT ON EQUALITY OF RIGHTS REQUIRES FULL IMPLEMENTATION OF ACT 35 of 2016, THE BASIC EDUCATION FUNDING FORMULA LAW Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridgedin the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania because of the race or ethnicity of the individual.  (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania)- On May 18, 2021, by a 72% margin exceeding 1 million votes, Pennsylvania voters adopted a constitutional amendment on equality of rights under the law. In relevant part, the constitutional amendment states: Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania because of the race or ethnicity of the individual.  Therefore, Pennsylvania no longer purposely short-change 800,000 students and hundreds of thousands of taxpayers in the 144 school districts not receiving their baseline funding from Act 35 of 2016, Pennsylvania’s Basic Education Funding law. 

The Equity First Plan for Basic Education to constitutionally fix equality of rights and related matters: 
1.      Establish the Baseline: Distribute $1.22 Billion to the 144 school districts receiving $1.22 Billion less than their annual baseline for Basic Education funding.
2.     Fund This Year: Distribute $407 Million to all 500 school districts through the Basic Education Funding Formula Law so every school district is fully funded under the FY2021-2022 formula.
3.     Fund the Shortfall: Distribute the $6.91 Billion shortfall since the effective date of Act 35 of 2016 to the 144 shortchanged school districts.
4.     Immediately establish a K-12 Cost-Savings Commission as articulated by the Basic Education Funding Commission to reduce spending!
5.     School Property Tax Reduction: If any school district has more than 15% of their annual budget in unrestricted General Fund – Fund Balance at 12/31/2020, or 25% of their annual budget in uncommitted Reserve or Building Funds at 12/31/2020, their school property millage must be reduced by the amount above 15% threshold for General Fund, dollar-for-dollar, and above the 25% threshold for Special Reserve and Building Funds, dollar-for-dollar, (excluding millage committed to bond debt).
6.     School Property Tax Reduction: Any school district receiving greater that 50% of their prior year allocation of Basic Education funds, must apply forty (40%) of received funds to reduce their school property tax millage, dollar-for-dollar, excluding millage committed to bond debt. 
BACKGROUND:

BASIC EDUCATION FUNDING AND THE PENNSYLVANIA CONSTITUTION:
Created through Act 51 of 2014 (sponsored as House Bill 1738 by Representative Bernie O’Neill), the 15-member board of the Basic Education Funding Commission, held 15 hearings over 11 months and heard from more than 110 individuals including superintendents, school board presidents, business leaders, nonprofit organizations, and parents before making their recommendations.
On June 18, 2015, the Basic Education Funding Commission recommended that the General Assembly adopt a new formula for distributing state funding for basic education to Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts.[1]
With great fanfare, Act 35 of 2016[2] established the Basic Education Funding Formula Law for 500 school districts, to fix systematic racism, population and demographic shifts, and fairness in education funding. To do so, the new formula takes into account relative wealth, local tax effort, geographic price differences, enrollment levels, local support as well as other factors.[3]

THE BRUTAL MATH | THE BRUTAL TRUTH
Since passage of Act 35 of 2016, the Governor and General Assembly have not implemented Act 35 of 2016.
Instead, the Governor and General Assembly have shortchanged 144 school districts by the grand total of $6,917,581,360[4].
With 144 school districts getting LESS than the baseline amount they are supposed to get under the law, that means 356 school districts are getting MORE than the baseline amount they are supposed to get under the funding law. This situation is exactly the problem Act 35 of 2016 was passed to fix!
The most severely underfunded school districts educate 80% of Pennsylvania’s minority students.[5]
Conversely, many of the school districts receiving MILLIONS MORE than their baseline amount under the Basic Education Funding Formula law, have a student population that is more than 90% white.[6] 
At the same time, (1) state revenues are reaching historically large figures with expectations approaching a $2 Billion surplus[7], and (2) Pennsylvania is expecting to get more than $7.2 Billion in federal funds.[8]

The Pennsylvania Constitution and its Amendments
The Pennsylvania Constitution starts, all men are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent and indefeasible rights, among which are those enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property and reputation, and of pursuing their own happiness.
The Pennsylvania Constitution Article I, § 26, “Neither the Commonwealth nor any political subdivision thereof shall deny to any person the enjoyment of any civil right, nor discriminate against any person in the exercise of any civil right.” 
The Pennsylvania Constitution Article I, § 28, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania because of the sex of the individual.” 
The Pennsylvania Constitution amended by May 18, 2021, vote. Equalityof rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania because of the race or ethnicity of the individual. 

ISSUE: DOES PENNSYLVANIA VIOLATE EQUALITY OF RIGHTS BY NOT IMPLEMENTING ACT 35 of 2016, THE BASIC EDUCATION FUNDING FORMULA LAW:
YES: Dozens of state and national [9]reports keep demonstrating Pennsylvania maintains the most racist school funding system in America.[10] 
Presently, 144 school districts are shortchanged a grand total of $6,917,581,360 under Act 35 of 2016.[11] 
As above referenced, (1) state revenues are reaching historically large figures with expectations approaching a $2 Billion surplus, and (2) Pennsylvania is expecting to get more than $7.2 Billion in federal funds. 
RULE: Designed to end systematic racism and adjust for demographic and population shifts, Act 35 of 2016 has not been fully implemented. The Pennsylvania Constitution demands equality of rights under the law. Therefore, The Governor and General Assembly must fully fund Act 35 0f 2016 in the FY 2021-2022 state budget. IMPLEMENTATION OF RULE OF LAW:
Right now, there are more than enough available funds to (1) distribute $1.22 Billion to the 144 school districts receiving $1.22 Billion less than their annual baseline for Basic Education funding, and (2) distribute $407 Million to all 500 school districts through the Basic Education Funding Formula Law so every school district gets a funding increase, and (3) distribute the $6.91 Billion shortfall since the effective date of Act 35 of 2016.  

ACTION: To Establish Equality of Rights Under the Constitution, The Governor and General Assembly Must Implement Act 35 of 2016 in the FY2021-2022 State Budget:
To bring Act 35 of 2016 into constitutional compliance, there is proposed legislation that can be used in part to implement Act 35 of 2016. 
Through the 75/25% split identified in SB123, (1) 25% of $1.63 Billion annual budget allocation should be distributed to all 500 school districts through the Basic Education Funding Formula law; (2) 75% of the $1.63 annual budget allocation should be distributed only to the 144-underfunded districts, so every school district is funded at the baseline amount set by the Basic Education Funding Formula law. Then, (3) $6.91 Billion should be distributed on a one-time basis to the 144 identified school districts to fund their baseline funding shortfall since adoption of Act 35 of 2016.
With the May 18th passage of the Constitutional amendment on Equality of Rights, Governor Wolf and the General Assembly can no longer deny 800,000 students and hundreds of thousands of taxpayers their constitutional rights, and they must fully implement Act 35 of 2016 in the FY 2021-2022.
Establish Cost Savings Commission: The 2016 Basic Education Funding Commission highlighted the immediate need for a cost-savings commission to identify cost savings at all K-12 schools.[12] We agree.
Cap on Reserve Fund Balances: By June 30, 2021, The Commonwealth Foundation projects General Fund Balances will exceed $5.11 Billion – an increase from the $4.6 billion that districts had on hand at the end of 2019. An equal or larger amount of Fund Balances rests in Special Reserve Funds and Building Funds. In the FY 2001-2002 State Budget, the General Assembly capped General Fund – Fund Balances, which immediately dropped Fund Balances in School Districts, until they discovered Special Reserve funds and Building Funds. Excessive Fund Balances withhold valuable funds from students in need and should not be tolerated. Equity First proposes a reasonable Cap on All Fund Balances in School Districts.[13]
School Property Reduction: Not withstanding each district’s contractual obligations for debt millage, many districts receiving this funding, would be able to significantly decrease school property tax millage with the received funds. Equity First proposes 40% of all received funds should be used to immediately reduce school property tax millage. All told, this would be the largest reduction of school property taxes in the history of Pennsylvania.

CONCLUSION: The Pennsylvania Constitution and its amendments demand equality of rights under the law. Presently, the funding of Act 35 of 2106 is unconstitutional. Therefore, Governor Wolf and the General Assembly must use the FY2021-2022 state budget to bring Equality of Rights to all Pennsylvania students and taxpayers.


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