JOHNSTOWN, Pa (WTAJ)—The Altoona and Greater Johnstown School Districts participated in a state-wide press conference calling for new legislation in providing equitable funding to urban school districts.
Tuesday, dozens of urban school districts in the Commonwealth held a conference simultaneously on this issue. The goal is for legislators to hear their words and enact charter and cyber school reform. The combined districts are called the Pennsylvania League of Urban Schools.
Over ten years, the financial gap between urban and suburban and charter school funding increased to $3,700,000,000. The two schools rely on locals and businesses to make up the difference between mandated costs and state funding. Within ten years, locals have invested over $12,000,000 to make up for the mandated costs.
“State and federal funding has not kept pace with the legislative mandates including charter tuitions, pension contributions, special education, and it’s hit urban school districts the hardest,” Greater Johnstown School District Superintendent Dr. Amy Arcurio said.
“We should not be begging to get adequate funding to fuel the number one economic driver in the state of Pennsylvania,” Altoona Area School District Superintendent Dr. Charles Prijatelj said.
The conference had comments from Johnstown students, staff, parents, and NAACP Vice President. They each shared what improvements or programs they were able to endeavor with the Johnstown school district.
Additionally, Former PA Secretary of Education and Greater Johnstown School District Superintendent Dr. Gerald Zahorchak gave remarks about how all funding is needed for urban schools. He referenced how it’s a fundamental right that students have public education and that funding should not be dependent on zip code.
Both Administrators expressed how the funding goes to improvements in the curriculum, school building repairs, and increasing the number of staff. Not having this funding available means that schools will have to return to previous levels which could do a disservice to the students.
“These funds will be long-lasting but trust me. These resources are needed in the Greater Johnstown School District, in these PLUS school districts,” Dr. Zahorchak said. “Plenty is needed, teachers, counselors, up-to-date materials, and books.”
The administrators expressed how their students are vital to building their communities. Both schools provide trade programs and partnerships with businesses, colleges, and hospitals for their students.
If funding continues to shrink, these programs will not exist for students. Both administrators said that means the workforce in the community could drop, and students won’t showcase their skills.
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“If the Altoona Area School District fails, the Altoona city and the Blair County region fails,” Dr. Prijatelj said. “If we as the Altoona School District don’t do our jobs to provide children with the vital skills and the knowledge they need and the desire to go into fields that strengthen our own community.”
“We will be forced to potentially return to previous staffing levels, delay additional repairs to our schools and potentially discontinue additional programs,” Dr. Arcurio said. “Programs we know meet the needs of our students and help them reach their hopes, dreams, and potential for the future.”