WEST CHESTER (June 19) – State Senator Andy Dinniman praised the work completed by the Basic Education Funding Commission (BEFC) in paving the way for an education system that takes into account students’ emotional health and well-being.

“We know that children are not prepared to learn until they are emotionally healthy,” Dinniman, who served on the BEFC and also serves as minority chair of the Senate Education Committee, said. “And the commission’s recommendations not only offer a funding formula that is responsible, predictable and equitable, but one that also – for the first time – acknowledges and begins to address socio-economic factors related to the impact of trauma in the classroom.”

IMG_7976“Students in our most financially-distressed areas experience violence, drug abuse, unstable home lives and food insecurity on a daily basis. There is overwhelming evidence that these factors inhibit learning,” he added.

The 15-member bipartisan commission today unanimously adopted a new formula for distributing state funding for basic education to Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts. The formula contains five student weights to reflect the higher cost of educating particular types of children. These weights are poverty, poverty concentration, English language learners, charter school enrollment, and district sparsity/size.

Dinniman said that the inclusion of the poverty concentration factor in the formula directly reflects the work he and others in Chester County have done to raise awareness of the impact of trauma on education. Studies show that students in less affluent areas are greatly impacted by trauma.

“Over the past three years, I’ve worked with parents, teachers and others in Chester County, along with Dr. Joan Duvall-Flynn, to inform school officials and staff of the importance of trauma-informed education,” he said. “Studies have shown that there are factors, such as domestic violence, homelessness, hunger and drug addiction, which lead to students coming to school traumatized. And there is no doubt that trauma has a direct and significant, negative impact on learning.”

Dinniman added that he brought the issue and the latest research on socio-economic factors and the impact of trauma on education to the BEFC’s attention and appreciated his colleagues’ work in including it in the new funding formula and recommendations.

The BEFC’s official recommendations call for the Department of Education “to consider devising protocols and measures to identify students in trauma.” The commission also recognized “that students in trauma may be more costly to educate and the application of weights to this factor based on reliable data may be merited.”

Joan Duval-Flynn, Chair of the Pennsylvania NAACP’s Education Committee and Director of the Trauma Informed Education Coalition said she was elated that the BEFC has acknowledged trauma in its recommendations to the Pennsylvania Department of Education

“This commission has recommended that the department develop protocols to respond to children in trauma and that is a major step forward,” she said.

Dinniman also pointed out that trauma is currently the main issue in a landmark class action case in California where students are suing the Compton Unified School District for allegedly failing to address their trauma-related problems by providing appropriate services and education.

The commission’s recommendations now must be approved in legislation by the General Assembly and signed by Governor Wolf to become law.

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