Vibrancy Index data illuminates inequitable distribution of school funding
A recent ruling by a Commonwealth Court judge determined that Pennsylvania’s school funding system is unconstitutional, given how heavily it relies on a district’s property taxes.
The result has been fewer resources for students living in low income districts, further perpetuating inequity within the state by failing to meet Sustainable Development Goal 4 Quality Education (SDG 4). There are a total of 17 SDG’s, which were created by the United Nations as a call to action to raise the quality of life for all people on the planet.
“Students in poorer districts have not had access. Their schools don’t offer the same enrichment programs or have the same academic expectations as those in wealthier communities. That’s the way it has been for a very long time,” said Bridget Clement, Executive Director for Communities in Schools Pittsburgh-Allegheny County. “This ruling is a great step forward. Now it’s time for the hard work – figuring out where the additional funding will come from.”
Using data collected through New Sun Rising’s Vibrancy Index, Allegheny and Beaver County communities that fall within the lowest 20% for Quality Education (SDG 4) also rank lower for No Poverty (SDG 1), Zero Hunger (SDG 2), and Decent Work & Economic Growth (SDG 8). Furthermore, these communities tend to be communities of color, with the non-white population being three times higher compared to communities that rank in the highest 20% for Quality Education (SDG 4).
In the nearly 800 page document, Judge Renée Cohn Jubelire determined that Pennsylvania has failed to comply with the constitution by discriminating against poorer districts, disproportionately impacting children of color and children from low income families.
“Fixing the school funding is critically important but it’s only one part of the solution, we’ve got to work on the community as a whole,” Clement said.
The impacts of the current school funding model, illuminated by the Vibrancy Index data, shows how the inequitable distribution of funds limits opportunities for students to thrive and is connected to other outcomes within a community. Judge Jubelire ruling concludes that regardless of class or ethnicity, education is a fundamental right and Pennsylvania must provide students with a “meaningful opportunity to succeed academically, socially, and civically.”
This Power in Numbers data story is part of New Sun Rising’s commitment to using data, technology, organizing, communication, and creativity to help people advocate for the future they envision. Learn more about the Power in Numbers initiative and access the Vibrancy Portal platform. Is there something that you would like to share about your experience with education system funding and outcomes? Contribute to the conversation through the community voice feedback form.
The Vibrancy Index helps people to understand conditions in their community through 50 institutional data points. The VI also generates sub-indices in Culture, Sustainability, Opportunity, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Quality Education (SDG 4) includes seven different indicators such as preschool attendance, high school completion, and certification, Associates, Bachelors, and Graduate degrees. It is part of the Opportunity Index along with Poverty, Workforce, and Industry & Innovation.