Chester, PA – March 19, 2021 – Yesterday, a bipartisan group of Senators representing Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties sent a letter to Governor Wolf, Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam, and the members of the COVID-19 Vaccine Joint Task Force, supporting requests by county officials that the state distribute coronavirus vaccine doses to county-run clinics rather than sending them to a single mass vaccination site for the entire region.
Senators Kane (D, Delaware/Chester), Comitta (D, Chester), Cappelletti (D, Delaware/Montgomery), Collett (D, Bucks/Montgomery), Kearney (D, Delaware/Chester), Muth (D, Berks/Chester/Montgomery), Santarsiero (D, Bucks), Tomlinson (R, Bucks), and Williams (D, Delaware/Philadelphia) signed onto the letter in support of county officials. In their letter, the Senators highlighted both the continued concerns with distribution equity posed by establishing a single site for 2.5 million resident and the superfluousness of creating a new mass site on top of existing county infrastructure.
“We’ve been facing issues with equitable vaccine distribution here in Southeast PA for weeks. Our vaccine allotment has been severely limited, and residents are already being forced to travel for their appointments, meaning access for working people, folks without reliable transportation, and caretakers of children is often all but non-existent,” said Senator Kane. “Creating a single mass vaccination site for the entire southeast, a single mass vaccination site for 2.5 million people, will only serve to exacerbate these disparities. I’m standing in support of our county health officials and asking for the additional vaccine doses to be distributed between the four counties for allocation through their existing infrastructure. I’m tired of vulnerable communities being sent to the back of the line when times are hardest, and I won’t stop fighting for my constituents.”
The proposed single mass vaccination clinic is only the latest in a serious of hurdles residents of the collar counties have been facing in attempting to schedule vaccine appointments. Three weeks ago, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the four collar counties had received many fewer vaccine doses by population than other counties. Since then, legislators have faced continued hurdles in advocating for increased doses, including responses by the Department of Health that it is irrelevant where constituents are receiving their vaccines so long as they are getting vaccinated.
However, residents of the collar counties continue to face difficulties in scheduling appointments and finding accurate information. “My constituents are beyond frustrated at the confusion and lack of coordination on how to obtain a vaccine,” said Senator Muth. “I cannot understand the purpose of the $11.6 million dollar contract with a consulting firm for vaccine distribution and yet, here we are, many questions unanswered, incomplete data, and inconsistent information day-to-day. Only providing one vaccination site for the entire Southeast region will simply disproportionately harm seniors who do not drive, single parents struggling to balance child care while working multiple frontline jobs, and so many who are just unable to travel an hour or more to a single vaccination site. We can and must do better. I urge the administration to listen to our local elected county leaders on this issue and ensure the true equitable distribution by showing all data and numbers.”
The letter follows a joint statement issued Wednesday, in which county officials from the four collar counties asked the Department of Health to reconsider their plans for a single mass vaccination clinic and to instead allocate the doses among the four counties.
Senator Kearney highlighted the added hurdle in creating a mass vaccination clinic when counties are already prepared to distribute additional doses. “We don’t need to reinvent the wheel by creating a single mass vaccination site that will somehow serve 2.5 million residents across Southeastern Pennsylvania. Our counties have the infrastructure in place to get shots in arms – all they need is the supply. If our counties get the doses, our counties can get it done,” said Senator Kearney.
A full copy of the Senators’ letter can be found here.
SEPA Delegation Letter March 18 2021
MORRISVILLE − May 1, 2020 − State Senator Steve Santarsiero (D-10) and state Representatives Perry Warren (D-31) and John Galloway (D-140) held a virtual press conference today to discuss the critical need for funding to support Morrisville School District. They were joined by representatives of Morrisville School District and Morrisville Borough.
The legislators called on Governor Tom Wolf and the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) to review demographic data that has been used to calculate the state funding Morrisville School District receives. The shortfall in funding stems from an unintended consequence in the way that both the existing and new funding formulas are calculated for Morrisville (a conclusion supported by the fact that even under the new, so-called fair funding formula, Morrisville actually receives less support from the state than under the older allocation).
For the 2020-21 fiscal year, the formulas are based in part on a projected 5-year median household income in Morrisville of nearly $75,000, well above some of the most challenged districts in the state. But that number is not accurate. It is not limited to the income of people living within the municipal – and, therefore, school district – boundaries of Morrisville Borough. Instead, it includes large numbers of residents in nearby Lower Makefield Township and Yardley Borough, who share the 19067 zip code with their neighbors in Morrisville. When looking only at Morrisville residents, the median household income drops to $53,000. As a consequence of this issue, Morrisville School District has been unfairly underfunded for a number of years.
“Despite the school board’s prudent management of the district finances, Morrisville School District continues to suffer blatant inequity due to a calculation error in the funding formula. Through no fault of their own, the students, teachers, and support staff of Morrisville are forced to bear this burden,” said Sen. Santarsiero. “There is a constitutional obligation to provide ‘a thorough and efficient system of public education’ to all of Pennsylvania’s children, and even during our current public health crisis, this remains one of our most important responsibilities and is why we’re requesting this critical assistance.”
“The funding formula deals with 500 different school districts in an incredibly diverse state,” said Rep. Galloway. “There are going to be anomalies, and one of those was Morrisville.”
Since 2015, Morrisville School District and its elected officials in the Pennsylvania House and Senate, have been working with the administration of Governor Wolf to provide Morrisville’s schools with $1 million in supplemental funding each fiscal year to help close the gap. However, even with this supplemental funding, it is increasingly difficult for the district to survive. For example, in the 2020-21 school year, the district is faced with a budget deficit of close to $1.2 million.
“I’ve spent a lot of time in the Morrisville school district, reading to the kids at Grandview, walking the halls of the high school with Superintendent Harris and Board President Miller, attending football games and other events, and it is a special place,” said Rep. Warren. “The $1 million extra funding is more than a band-aid, it’s a bandage, but it is and always has been a short-term fix. We need a real long term funding solution. Our kids deserve to continue to have the great educational and co-curricular opportunities that we, the board, administration, teachers and staff, and the community have worked so hard to provide for them.”
“Morrisville is more than just numbers,” said Morrisville Superintendent Jason Harris. “In spite of the volatility in the costs to educate students and meet mandated costs, our Board, staff and administration have supported programs which have yielded some remarkable results… School budgets are a constant source of strain and stress on any district. However, in Morrisville, with its limited tax base and other streams of revenue, spikes in Special Education costs put an even greater strain on an already strapped resource. The District often relies on the use of grants to support programs.”
“Despite the efforts Morrisville School District has made regarding educational opportunities and facility upgrades, the continuation and sustainability of those efforts are in jeopardy,” said Damon Miller, President of the School Board of the Borough of Morrisville. “The issues and effects of these trends the Morrisville School District faces are not ones that will stop at the school district borders. As Morrisville declines, so too will neighboring communities as those effects bleed into our surrounding townships. We are asking for the state to step in and provide assistance in not only helping the students of Morrisville receive an equitable education as their peers in surrounding districts, but also the Morrisville community as a whole.”
“Even though the district and the borough government are separate entities, we are attached at the hip,” said Ted Parker, Morrisville Borough Council President. “The district has not been receiving what it should from the state.”
The funding issue has further been exacerbated during the Coronavirus pandemic, as distance learning replaced traditional classroom learning. Nearly 600 of the over 800 students in Morrisville School District currently do not have the resources to participate in distance learning. Morrisville School District applied for the Continuity of Education and Equity Grant (CEEG) to help fund the purchase of Chromebooks and hotspots, but the application was denied, likely in part due to the same flaw in calculating the level of need in Morrisville described above.
In light of this discrepancy, Sen. Santarsiero, Reps. Warren and Galloway, and representatives from Morrisville Borough and Morrisville School District joined together in requesting assistance from the Office of the Governor, that an amount equivalent to what the district would have received under the CEEG program be granted to the school district as soon as possible so that Morrisville can purchase the needed equipment in time to cover the remainder of this school year.
The full text of the letter sent to Governor Wolf is available here.
The full recording of the press conference is available here.
BUCKS COUNTY − May 1, 2020 − State Senator Steve Santarsiero (D-10) along with State Representatives Perry Warren (D-31) and John Galloway (D-140) sent the following letter to Governor Wolf to request an increase in funding for Morrisville School District: