The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth.

– Article III, Section 14, of the Pennsylvania Constitution

Oral Argument Recap

On Tuesday, September 13, 2016, school districts, parents and advocates stood before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and urged the court to get involved in reviewing the state’s education funding system. Hundreds of people from across the state of Pennsylvania waited in line at Philadelphia’s City Hall to fill up the Supreme Court room, an overflow court room and then some.

If you were not able to view the oral argument this past Tuesday, you can watch a recorded version on PCN this Friday, September 16, at 1 p.m.

fair-funding-rally

Students rally outside Philadelphia City Hall on September 13, 2016.

Next Tuesday: Pennsylvania Supreme Court to Hear Oral Argument for Fair Education Funding Suit

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:  Barb Grimaldi
(267) 546-1304; (585) 797-9439
BGrimaldi@pubintlaw.org

Laura Frank
(215) 735-6760
laura@ceislermedia.com

The suit, filed in 2014, claims the Commonwealth is violating its constitutional duty to “support and maintain” a “thorough and efficient system of public education”

PHILADELPHIA – [September 8, 2016] – Oral argument in William Penn School District, et al. v. Pennsylvania Dept. of Education, et al. will commence before Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court at Philadelphia’s City Hall on September 13th at 9 AM.  The Public Interest Law Center and Education Law Center-PA, representing the plaintiffs, will ask the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to permit a full trial on the merits of the case, reversing a 2015 Commonwealth Court decision that dismissed the case. This would allow the plaintiffs to present evidence that the state General Assembly has violated the Pennsylvania Constitution by failing to adequately and equitably fund Pennsylvania’s public schools and leaving children without the resources they need to succeed academically.

Following the hearing, a rally and press conference in support of the lawsuit will take place on the North Side of City Hall, at 10:30 AM.  Speakers and attendees will include representatives from the parent and school district plaintiffs, Councilwoman Helen Gym, clergy from Philadelphians Organized to Witness Empower and Rebuild (POWER), advocates from Education Voters of PA and the NAACP, and attorneys from the Public Interest Law Center and the Education Law Center-PA.

The case was filed in 2014 against the governor and legislative leaders in response to decades of underfunding by Harrisburg that has deprived children of the resources they need to succeed. The plaintiffs that brought the case include seven parents, six school districts – William Penn, Panther Valley, Lancaster, Greater Johnstown, Wilkes-Barre Area and Shenandoah Valley – the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools (PARSS) and the NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference.

“Pennsylvania’s public school children are entitled to have their day in court. The Legislature’s failure to ‘support and maintain’ a thorough and efficient system of public education has resulted in Pennsylvania having the widest disparity between high-wealth and low-wealth school districts of anywhere in the nation,” said Deborah Gordon Klehr, Executive Director of the Education Law Center. “Our children can no longer wait. Court enforcement of our Constitution is the only way that all children in Pennsylvania will receive the sustained investment they need to learn – regardless of where they live or what school they attend.”

“Upholding the Constitution is the highest duty of our judiciary, and we are confident that the Supreme Court will step in where the General Assembly has failed,” said Michael Churchill, of counsel for the Public Interest Law Center. “Our inadequate funding system shortchanges students by leaving them without the most basic resources they deserve. We have the opportunity with this lawsuit to require the legislature to finally address this longstanding problem.”

In the absence of judicial oversight, the Commonwealth has underfunded rural, suburban, and urban schools across the state for many years, resulting in the nation’s highest disparity between wealthy and poor districts. According to the petition filed by the plaintiffs, the General Assembly has adopted state standards that define the academic content children must learn, but has failed to provide the funding necessary to give students an opportunity to meet those standards. As a result, many students in underfunded schools struggle academically and fail to meet state standards.

While Pennsylvania recently adopted a school funding formula – which the attorneys for the plaintiffs acknowledge is a step in the right direction – only a small fraction of education dollars will be driven through that formula and state education funding levels overall remain wholly inadequate to meet the needs of students.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is expected to issue its decision of the appeal sometime after the oral argument.

Members of Phila. City Council, education groups to host events to support oral argument

Education advocates are organizing a sing-in and rally to build public support for the oral argument on September 13. Supporters of the lawsuit are invited to participate in the following events.

SEPTEMBER 12: SING-IN

Sing-In FlierLocation: Dilworth Park | Directions

Time: 2:00-6:00 pm

What: Marching bands, church choirs, community groups and others will perform throughout this afternoon in support of fair funding for public schools.

SEPTEMBER 13: FAIR FUNDING LAWSUIT HEARING

091316 Fair Funding Suit FlyerLocation: City Hall | Directions

Time: 9:00am-12:00 noon

What: Watch oral argument, and then stay after, as parents, teachers, students, and an array of professionals gather outside of City Hall to testify about the Constitution’s requirement that every child receive a quality, adequately funded public education.

 

25+ Districts Pass Resolutions Supporting Lawsuit

Our partners at Education Voters of PA have been helping school districts and organizations pass resolutions in support of the school funding lawsuit. Here is the list of districts and organizations that have passed such resolutions to date.

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If your district or organization is interested in passing a resolution, our partners at Education Voters of PA have put together a sample resolution and an FAQ about passing such a resolution.  Continue reading

City of Philadelphia Submits Brief in Support of School Funding Lawsuit

The City of Philadelphia filed a “friend of the court” brief on February 16, 2016, in support of our ongoing lawsuit against state officials over the Commonwealth’s broken system of school funding.

Through this amicus brief, the City joins six school districts, parents and associations from across the state in asking the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to send the case back to Commonwealth Court for a full trial on whether or not the state legislature has violated its constitutional responsibility to maintain and support “a thorough and efficient system of public education.” The brief details how the state’s current funding scheme creates gross disparities between school districts in low and high wealth areas and fails to support poorer school districts like Philadelphia, which have less capacity to raise local revenue.  Continue reading

Parents, school districts urge courts to intervene in school funding crisis

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 1, 2015

Contact:          Barb Grimaldi, Public Interest Law Center, 267-546-1304, bgrimaldi@pilcop.org

Ian Gavigan, Education Law Center-PA, 267-825-7713, igavigan@elc-pa.org

Harrisburg, Pa. –Parents and school districts challenging Pennsylvania’s school funding system told the state Supreme Court Monday that it should decide the case on the merits and reject the state’s plea to toss the case because of its complexity and difficulty.  In a reply brief filed Monday the petitioners defended their position that the courts can and must examine claims that the state is failing its constitutional obligations to adequately fund “a thorough and efficient system of public education” in a manner which does not discriminate against low-wealth districts.  Continue reading