What to Know
- Philadelphia councilwoman Helen Gym along with members of the interfaith organization POWER were detained during a protest over public school funding at the Pennsylvania capitol building in Harrisburg.
- Gym and about a dozen protesters gathered inside the capitol building in Harrisburg while calling for an increase in funding for Pennsylvania’s public schools.
- Pennsylvania's 2021-2022 budget vote is set to take place next week.
Philadelphia councilwoman Helen Gym along with members of the interfaith organization POWER were detained during a protest over public school funding at the Pennsylvania capitol building in Harrisburg.
In a statement released Tuesday, members of POWER announced they planned to protest at the Capitol to demand that the Pennsylvania legislature “rectify the inequity in education funding” ahead of the state’s 2021-2022 budget vote next week. They also wrote they would "disrupt business as usual in the General Assembly to make sure lawmakers in the Capitol hear this call for justice."
On Wednesday, around 1 p.m., Gym and about a dozen protesters gathered inside the capitol building in Harrisburg while calling for an increase in funding for Pennsylvania’s public schools. They were later detained by police while protesting inside.
"Shame on Pennsylvania," Gym shouted while being placed in handcuffs. "Shame on the unjust funding of our school kids! Shame on this legislature for not standing up for our children! They sit on a 10 million dollar surplus while our kids live in poverty!"
Reporter John L. Micek of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star also tweeted video of the protesters being detained.
Both Gym and POWER later announced they were released.
"I thank and commend the brave leaders--Councilmember Helen Gym, Bishop Dwayne Royster, and all of the faith leaders of POWER--for their unequivocal and unrelenting determination in fighting for equitable education funding,” Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan wrote in a response to the protest.
"These leaders were arrested for advocating for our students to have school buildings free of toxins; arrested for advocating for smaller class sizes; arrested for advocating for more counselors, nurses, and librarians; arrested for advocating for all of the resources and services that our students so richly deserve, and in fact to which they are constitutionally entitled. And let's be very clear: in a wealthier, whiter school district, these are resources that are taken as a given.”
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Earlier in the month, Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, reported a huge surplus for Pennsylvania caused by tax collections that rebounded far better than expected from the pandemic's impact.
Wolf had said he wanted a $1.3 billion boost to public school aid, about a 20% increase, ahead of the state budget deadline. The boost would ensure that Pennsylvania begins using its six-year-old school-funding formula in a meaningful way for the first time.
The proposal has strong support from Democratic lawmakers.
The formula, in part, was meant to help boost aid to Pennsylvania's poorest school districts, many of which serve big populations of African American and Latino children.
Pennsylvania Republicans have worked to advance their own schools plan, which revolves around charter and private schools.
The bill would give a panel dominated by lawmakers’ appointees the authority to approve charter schools — taking that power away from local school boards — and ramping up taxpayer-financing of private schools through tax credits.