Faith leaders representing 50 religious congregations in southeast Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley -- under the banner of POWER: An Interfaith Movement -- denounced the decision by the Pennsylvania State Legislature to recess for the summer instead of returning to Harrisburg to deal with critical issues such as whether public schools across the state will have the resources they need to open their doors in four weeks.
Rev. Dr. Mark Kelly Tyler, Senior Pastor of Mother Bethel AME Church in Philadelphia and a POWER leader, said there is no excuse that we are in the same place once again. Tyler added that "while elected officials in Harrisburg are doing nothing, tens of thousands of children and their families are being held hostage to political gamesmanship and political indifference. As the governor, senators, and representatives start their long summer vacations, those of little means worry about whether their schools will open in four weeks. This is a moral outrage."
POWER supports the announcement by Philadelphia School's Superintendent Dr. William Hite that city schools will likely have to remain closed come Sept. 8th if the state continues to shirk its constitutional responsibility to provide for adequate resources for public educaion on time and will support its families affected by school closures to the extent possible. But, its leaders said, POWER will continue to remain focused on its long term goal: a full, fair, funding formula for public schools across the state. "Pennyslvania is one of only three states without a funding formula for its public schools, that is why we go throgh this devilish ritual each summer, wondering if our political leaders will muster the nerve to find enough money for school children" said Mary Laver, a Montgomery County resident, POWER leader, and member of St. Vincent's Roman Catholic Church in Philadelphia. "It's dispicable and cowardly" added Laver.
Despite the current impasse, and potential short-term crisis come September, POWER is harnessing its energy and resouces - including its base of more than 35,000 members who belong to its 50 member congregations - on contacting voters throughout the state to educate them about the continued lack of moral courage displayed by the state legislature and the need for a permanent solution to the perennial school funding crises in the form of a full, fair, funding formula which would bring all districts up to the level of funding recommended by a state-sponsored study conducted a few years ago.
"The current charade in Harrisburg, and the very real threats of school closures in September, despite how dire, are distractions from what should be every citizen's goal in the coming two years: enacting a full, fair funding formula that adequately and justly funds our public schools and ensures that every child - despite race, neighborhood or party affiliation of their representative - has a fair and equal shot at getting a solid education" added Rev. Tyler, also a parent of two public school children.
The 50 faith congregations that comprise POWER are not working alone. They have teamed up with numerous and diverse groups across the state - including Public Citizens for Children and Youth and the Pennsylvania Business Council - to pursue the common goal of a fair, predictable and permanent system for adequate funding of public school districts.