Lawmakers Advocate for State Funding for School Facility Repairs
Harrisburg, PA – March 1, 2023 – Senator Tim Kearney (D-Delaware) and Representative Elizabeth Fiedler (D-Philadelphia) today held a press conference to announce legislation to revive the Commonwealth’s dormant school facilities funding program – PlanCon.
Joined by House and Senate colleagues, including Senator Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia), Representatives Tarik Khan (D-Philadelphia), Bridget Kosierowski (D-Lackawanna), Robert Merski (D-Erie), and education advocates, Kearney and Fiedler both highlighted the urgent need for the legislature to address the Commonwealth’s school facilities crisis.
“We cannot continue to ignore the state of our school facilities,” said Senator Kearney. “Suburban, rural, and urban districts are all suffering from different infrastructure-related challenges. Our courts recognize that we have fallen woefully short of providing our schools with the resources they need to give our children an equitable education. Those resources include safe buildings that have comfortable learning environments, well equipped for our students to focus on their instruction.”
This is the second year that Senate Kearney has introduced PlanCon legislation. This session, hopes that Senate Bill 415 will gain momentum and pass have increased now that Rep. Fiedler and several members of the House plan to introduce companion legislation.
“When a child is sitting in a classroom with peeling paint and asbestos, shivering because they’re too cold or has a nosebleed and a headache because they’re too hot, they can’t learn,” Fiedler said. “School buildings are a statewide educational and public health issue, and we need to start funding them with that importance. The recent Commonwealth Court ruling provides the state an excellent opportunity right now to ensure all children can go to school in a safe building and pursue a quality education.”
According to the National Council on School Facilities, Pennsylvania and its school districts are underfunding spending on facilities maintenance and capital budgets by $3.8 million EVERY year.
In the recent ruling in the William Penn School District fair funding lawsuit, the Commonwealth Court found that facilities must be safe and adequate and recognized that not all schools have safe facilities.
“This is about addressing decades of longstanding inequities,” both Kearney and Fiedler agreed. “We must look at educating our children through a holistic lens and provide the support to give school districts the resources they need – from educational materials to fixing a leaky school roof, it’s all connected.”
Senator Kearney’s PlanCon (Senate Bill 415) legislation is available here.
Senator Fiedler’s co-sponsorship memo can be found here.
PlanCon allows school districts to apply for partial reimbursement for planning and construction costs approved by the PA Department of Education. The General Assembly passed Act 70 of 2019 to greatly simplify the application process and to create the Maintenance Program to cover critical system repairs and maintenance to existing school facilities, formerly ineligible costs. However, the legislature has not funded PlanCon since 2016 and placed a moratorium on new applications.