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Spiritual and Faith Leaders send letter to legislators supporting fair funding Mercury 5-15-19

Letter: Poorer Pennsylvania school districts remain underfunded

This is a letter to be sent to Pennsylvania Legislators.

As faith leaders in the Pottstown borough and surrounding area, we care deeply about the well-being of our community.

We recognize that while all people have been created equal, they don’t all receive equal opportunities to succeed. Often, issues of multi-generational poverty, systemic racism and political indifference toward these communities mean that some children grow up with a significant lack of opportunities. This has certainly been the case for the children in Pottstown, which has struggled for years with a number of socio-economic challenges. Notably among these challenges has been the issue of school funding.

Recognizing that while Pennsylvania has a formula to direct state education funds to local school districts in an equitable way, the formula is only applied to a small fraction of the education budget. This has resulted in the Pottstown School District being underfunded by over $13 million every year. To add insult to injury, the way in which the non-formula funds are dispersed significantly favors majority white schools over schools with a greater minority population such as Pottstown. This is deeply troubling and we believe it must be addressed.

With this in mind, we call on our state leaders to apply the Fair Funding Formula to the entire basic education budget.

The children of Pottstown, along with the rest of the 52 percent of Pennsylvania children who live in underfunded districts, deserve to be supported with an equitable investment that accounts for their needs. When we invest in kids’ lives and their education, the payoff is tremendous for decades to come. We will see more hopeful communities, spiritually and physically healthier individuals, a prepared workforce and reduced crime and incarceration.

As faith-leaders we believe that loving our neighbors involves doing our part to support and advocate for our town and schools. We, along with our respective congregations, will continue to invest in this community with all the love we can muster — by praying, tending to spiritual needs, bringing people together and caring for our most vulnerable citizens. In addition, we call on and invite you as a leader to do all that you can to support the children, the families and the residents of the Pottstown community.

The Spiritual and Faith Leaders in and around Pottstown: Laura Johnson and Jessica Clemmer, Proximity Church; Tim Doering, Netzer; Bishop Michael Anthony, Heart of God Family Worship Center; Rev. Dr. Vernon Ross Jr., Rev. Leroy Burger, Rev. Allyson Beasley-Brown and Rev. Lori Hutchinson, Bethel Community Church of Pottstown; Rev. Patricia Gosher, First United Methodist Church; Rev. Dr. Marcia B. Bailey, First Baptist Church; Julia Katz, president, and Robert G. Misko, vice president, Congregation Hesed Shel Emet, Pottstown; Rev. Mary Etta Mest, Visitation Pastor with First Baptist, Pottstown and Falkner Swamp UCC, Gilbertsville; Sharon L. Smith, St. James Lutheran Church; Rev. Frances Chester, Falkner Swamp Reformed United Church of Christ, Gilbertsville; David Hakes, Daybreak Community Church; Rev. Garrison R. Lockley, Bethel AME Church, Pottstown; Pastor Kork Moyer, Still Waters Grace Brethren Church and The Ministries at Main Street Homeless Ministries; Rev. Joshua M. Caler, Christ Episcopal Church; Josh Detweiler, Morning Star Pottstown; Rev. David Castro Jr., Casa de Oracion A/G (House of Prayer Church); Pastor Joseph J. Terreri, Connection Church; Lisa Heverly, Operation Backpack; Pastor Joseph L. Maloney, Saint Aloysius Roman Catholic Parish; Pastor Reggie Brooks, Victory Christian Life Center; Rev. Nichole Jackson, Trinity Reformed United Church of Christ; Rev. Christian McMullan, interim pastor at Grace Lutheran and Emmanuel Lutheran; Rev. Carter Lester and Rev. Kerry Pidcock Lester, First Presbyterian Church; Pastor Elliot Liverman, Sabaoth Ministries; Rev. Anne Cormier, St. James UCC, Limerick; Rev. Austin L. Chinault II, Zion's United Church of Christ; Pastor Josh Park; Rev. Kay Braun, St. James Lutheran Church; Rev. Anne Confer Martens, The Hill School; Mark Muthler, Coventry Church of the Brethren; Rev. Kerry Mueller and Rev. Dave Hunter, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Pottstown; DJay Martin, Parker Ford Church; Rev. Marilyn Paradis; Major Jeny Shurtleff, The Salvation Army.

If any other faith leaders would like to add their names before this letter is delivered to individual legislators, email lauraljohnson07@gmail.com.

—Laura Johnson

On behalf of Spiritual and Faith Leaders

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