The official student newspaper of Lower Merion High School since 1929

The Merionite

The official student newspaper of Lower Merion High School since 1929

The Merionite

The official student newspaper of Lower Merion High School since 1929

The Merionite

Editorial: Equity for educational excellence

The Opinions Editors compare LM’s school funding and its effects with those of Overbook High School and other high schools in Philadelphia, and argue for equitable distribution of such funding across Pennsylvania.

The LM student body is exceptionally fortunate in regards to financial support from state and local funding. With our large sum of funding – allowing us to have widespread internet access, ubiquitous computers, expansive access to books, and many more important resources – our student body consistently achieves high-flying numbers in state examination performance, and places well ahead of state statistics and goals. However, what is important to recognize specifically is LM’s test based success given economic status for students. The Future Ready PA Index collects PSSA, Keystone Exam, and PASA performance data. It showed that, in the 2022-2023 school year, 35.7% of economically disadvantaged students at LM were proficient in Mathematics/Algebra 1. While this may seem unsatisfactory, if we travel just three miles towards Philadelphia, only an eleven-minute drive from our school, the comparison highlights a stark contrast. In this same statistic, Overbrook High School only experienced proficiency amongst 2.5% of economically disadvantaged students, over 14 times less than LM in this category. Furthermore, according to a US News yearly report, LM’s student body is only 14% economically disadvantaged. You might ask: what percentage of Overbrook High School is economically disadvantaged? 99%. This lends itself to the fact that almost every single Overbrook student falls within the 2.5% proficiency range. It has been argued that these poor scores are due to the socioeconomic status of the majority of the students enrolled in schools such as Overbrook. However, these numbers tell a different story. Drawing the simple comparison between the economically disadvantaged students at Overbrook and LM, it is evident that the lack of proficiency is far deeper than simple income disparity. These discrepancies can be attributed to the differences in funding and resources across schooling.

Another comparison to be drawn is the education that students experience directly after graduating high school, respectively. For some students, high schools help pave the way for opportunities in future rigorous learning and professions. LM succeeds in this. According to a school profile released by LM after the 2021-2022 year, “approximately 90% of Lower Merion High School graduates continue a higher education program. Approximately 85% of the class enroll in 4-year colleges, and 5% in 2-year colleges.” This, too, is directly contrasted with students in the Philadelphia School District. While only 5% of our class choose to attend two-year community college, Philadelphia Superintendent William Hite explained in his testimony within a 2022 trial on equitable funding that Philadelphia Community College is the most common destination for Overbrook students, and once they arrive, roughly 60% must take remedial coursework to make up for deficiencies in their high school educations.

Evidently, these educational disparities within only a three mile radius highlight an issue far too drastic to ignore. One answer to why poor minority students across the state are falling behind is clear: lack of funding. Lower Merion School District spends $27,818 per student annually. Philadelphia School District spends $15,066 in this same metric. 

To understand why funding is so uneven, we must examine how funding is allotted in the first place. In every state, a large share of funds is provided by the state government. According to the League of Women Voters of Greater Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania  spends only a 38% state share of public school funding – one of the lowest in the nation – which pales in comparison to the national state average of 47%, already showing a part of the problem. The rest of school funding is provided through local taxes. The values determined by the state for public school funding come from the various tax brackets surrounding the area. Simply put, money is taxed locally from citizens and given to nearby schools proportionally. Consequently, in richer areas, schools like LM receive more, and in poorer areas, schools like Overbrook High School less. 

In light of a 2023 ruling made by the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania on funding inequity, strides have been made across public schools. For this current school year, Philadelphia School District is reported to start spending $22,379 per student after a $4.5 billion budget was approved by the Philadelphia Board of Education. Still, this is not enough. There is still an unfair advantage for richer, majority students of over $5,000 dollars, and that does not take into account the accumulation of the former $10,000 gap over many years. Unless schools are funded entirely equitably, the education for many children in our state will be hindered. Education is the greatest investment for the future that any society can make, and currently with economically disadvantaged kids not even grazing the state examination result expectations in lower-tax bracket school districts, our state is missing out on much of this potential. Without such a foundational education being facilitated through equitable funding, how can everyone truly have the opportunity to be successful? We must make funding equitable to achieve statewide examination aims and maximize the success of Pennsylvania students in their futures.

Unsigned editorials reflect the general opinion of the Opinions staff and not the opinion of any single editor.

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