Harrisburg, Pa. − January 11, 2024 − Senator Lindsey M. Williams released this statement today, following her vote on the Basic Education Funding Commission Report. A full copy of the report, Senator Williams’ remarks, and all Commission hearings and materials can be found at SenatorLindseyWilliams.com/BEFC.
“First, I want to thank the Senate and House staffers who worked tirelessly over the last several months, preparing for hearings, setting up and tearing down complicated audio-visual equipment at locations around the Commonwealth, and spending hours writing reports. Without your efforts, this Commission would not have been able to do its work.
The Basic Education Funding Commission (BEFC) has spent months traveling the Commonwealth, taking hours of testimony from experts. These experts explained the many problems facing public education today—the same problems that were explained by Judge Jubelirer in her opinion in William Penn et. al. v. PA Department of Education, et. al.
My vote today is rooted in a moral conviction that the future of Pennsylvania depends on getting our system of public education to not only pass constitutional muster, but exceed it – from Pre-k to higher ed.
That means a Commission report that includes articulated and meaningful investments in the areas that the Court decided comprised a “though and efficient system of public education” – importantly, adequacy and equity – but also pre-k, facilities, special education, mental health, and educator and student supports, just to name a few.
That means a Commission report that includes an aggressive timeline for finally giving a comprehensive remedy to generations of students who were harmed by our unconstitutional public education system.
The General Assembly has to stop doing what we’ve always done, or we are going to keep ending up in the same place. Making minor investments in small pieces of education spending. Calling it “historic” when the funding increases barely keep up with inflation. Continuing to have students enter the workforce without reaching basic achievement levels. Watching scores of educators leaving the profession – or worse – not entering the classroom in the first place.
We have spent decades defining the problem. And while legislators have talked in circles, generations of kids continue to suffer under an unconstitutional system. I wanted this Commission to define the solutions and fight for those solutions to happen now. The majority report doesn’t go far enough in doing that.
I cannot in good faith vote for a compromise report that will ultimately serve as the starting point for budget negotiations. I did not want the public to look at a unanimous Democratic-only report and think that it represents our shared goals for this year’s budget. It does not. A unanimous Democratic-only report risks setting the ceiling for negotiations—and this report is closer to my floor.
I saw little reason to compromise now.”