HARRISBURG, Pa. (ErieNewsNow) - Members of the Pennsylvania House majority leadership team are touring schools around the commonwealth this week as part of their “Save Our School” (SOS) tour. The SOS tour comes as Pennsylvania remains without a budget, now over a month past the deadline. 

“If you care about children, let's fund our schools and let's do it today. This is not just about money, this is about the future of our commonwealth,” said Rep. Jordan Harris (D-Philadelphia), Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. 

House leaders say there are many reasons for this week’s tour. One of the leading reasons is a February Commonwealth Court decision, which ruled the state is falling short of its constitutional obligation to provide a comprehensive, contemporary and effective public education. 

“We have to put our children first. We have to fund our public schools fairly,” said House Speaker Joanna McClinton (D-Delaware/Philadelphia). “We didn't need an opinion from the Commonwealth Court to tell us what we already know, and that is that our Constitution tells us that we have to provide every child a thorough and efficient education,” McClinton added. 

The ruling highlighted inequities in education, especially for students in underserved school districts. 

"We cannot allow the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to continue to allow some schools to be better funded because they have more property taxes, and other schools to just leave our children behind,” said McClinton. 

"We have a responsibility. We have a constitutional mandate on funding education equitably for all children, regardless of their zip codes,” said Harris. 

The ruling has also been paramount for Democrats, who’ve consistently pushed for more public school funding throughout this year’s budget process. In early June, the House passed an initial budget that proposed spending $1 billion more than Gov. Josh Shapiro’s budget proposal. Roughly half of that additional spending in the Democrats’ plan was for public education. 

On the June 30 budget deadline, the Republican-controlled Senate passed its most recent version of the budget. The $45 billion spending plan contained funding increases for public education, including $100 million to help Pennsylvania’s poorest school districts, known as the “Level Up” initiative. However, the Senate version also contained a $100 million private school voucher program which was a nonstarter for House Democrats. 

On July 5, the House approved the budget after Gov. Shapiro vowed to “line-item veto” the voucher program, removing it from the budget. The move upset Republicans, especially those in the Senate, who say the program was a keystone in their negotiations with Gov. Shapiro. Harrisburg remains at a standstill with no signs of when the Senate, which still has to approve the final budget, will return to the State Capitol. 

The SOS tour was in Philadelphia yesterday and will continue tomorrow in State College and Thursday in Pittsburgh.