Ed Funding Committee to Meet in Philadelphia

Advocacy groups plan to make themselves heard — wanted or not.

The Basic Education Funding Commission during a hearing earlier this year.

The Basic Education Funding Commission during a hearing earlier this year.

The Notebook reports that the state’s Basic Education Funding Commission will meet in Philadelphia two days this week — Tuesday and Wednesday — but that the commission seems interested only in hearing from official sources.

Mayor Nutter, Superintendent William Hite, School Reform Commission chair Bill Green, and District chief financial officer Matt Stanski will testify on Tuesday; Wednesday witnesses will include a number of local charter school operators. Other witnesses will include David Rubin, a Penn researcher on foster children; Mark Gleason of the pro-school-choice Philadelphia School Partnership; and Temple University president Neil Theobold.

As The Notebook points out, however, there will be no “parents, students, and front-line school workers” testifying.

According to House Republican spokesman Steve Miskin, other commission sessions around the state have not included such testimonies. The point of the hearings is to find ways to “improve the fairness of the distribution of state school funds,” Miskin said, so the commission is prioritizing hearing from experts and people who deal directly with budgets, including school principals. He said several Philadelphia principals were on the Tuesday agenda.

The funding issue, Miskin said, “is very technical.” The commission is seeking information that will move beyond stories that boil down to a plea for more money for their school or district, he said. Technically, the commission’s charge is to find ways to more fairly distribute the funds made available, not determine “adequacy” levels of what is needed.

Several groups plan to make themselves heard. Public Citizens for Children and Youth will hold a separate one-hour hearing and give the tape to the commission; POWER, a faith-based organizing group, will provide witnesses directly to the commission — whether they’re wanted or not.

“If there is no authentic public comment period provided, we feel we have no other choice but to exercise our rights to do the right thing and provide expert witnesses anyway, regardless of whether or not they have been invited,” the group said in an open letter to the commission. “Parents, teachers, educators, clergy, and researchers who have been thus far muffled will offer their analysis of the problem with education funding as it stands in Pennsylvania and provide their own visionary solutions during the scheduled hearings.”

The meetings are scheduled for 1 p.m. Tuesday and 10 a.m. Wednesday. The Notebook did not report, and the commission’s website does not say, precisely where those meetings will take place.