Racial disparities abound in school funding formulas

By Crystal Echeverria

I am writing to you in hopes that this letter will be published, shared, and read by not only the First Lady Frances Wolf, but by the people of Pennsylvania, who deserve to know there is racism in our school funding, and nothing is being done about it.

Presently, I am a student who had the opportunity to intern with a firm that does research, marketing, and outreach for fair school funding, called Support Equity First. During the internship, I learned about the blatant racism in Pennsylvania school funding. It was so horrific that I shared this information with my friends. Needless to say, my friends were equally shocked.

First Lady Wolf, on a robotics trip to Bucks County, my friends and I witnessed the inequity of school funding firsthand. Our hearts dropped when we toured the high school and saw the Olympic swimming pool. We had only seen such a campus on tv shows and felt hurt that we couldn’t have the same luxuries. How was it fair that these schools could afford to host and succeed in Robotics competitions when we barely had enough recycled parts to get our robot to work?

Before writing to you, I took time to read about you, your career, and passions. I admire what you are doing as First Lady and am grateful for the work you have done so far with your position. My own mother is an artist, and I truly relate to your appreciations, feelings, and viewpoint.

I love that you are a cultured artist. Your eyes have seen so much of the world and have learned to interpret its beauties and faults alike. Art is such an essential part of creative and mature thinking, but so many students do not have access to art in their curriculums. It’s not that these students don’t want to explore art, and the wonders of bringing life and expression to the unknown, it’s that there simply isn’t enough school funding to provide art supplies, resources and artistic teachers for these students. With a vision like yours, I know you see the suffering and challenges facing so many Pennsylvanian students. Harrisburg School District alone is underfunded by $33 million dollars annually. Pennsylvania’s systematically racist school funding is rooted in our failure to fund our current school funding laws.

After studying this issue, it’s obvious: if Governor Wolf doesn’t lead the effort to end racism in Pennsylvania school funding, the General Assembly will continue to neglect it, and 825,000 students will remain underfunded for another 25-years. To fix this, Governor Wolf doesn’t need to do this on his own. Working together with the governor, you are the best-positioned person in Pennsylvania to help him end this systematic racism.

I hope you do.

Crystal Echeverria is a student in Harrisburg.

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