Funding Matters: School Districts that Spend More on Instruction are Higher Achieving, Our Analysis Finds
A line graph with a steep upward slope showing that as districts spend more on instructional expenses per weighted student_ the percentage of districts that are high achieving increases.
This graph shows that as districts spend more on instructional expenses per weighted student, the percentage of districts that are high achieving increases.
There's no getting around it: school funding matters. In a new op-ed and analysis, our attorney Michael Churchill looks at the relationship between actual instructional spending, taking into account student needs, and academic achievement. The state median for actual instructional spending is $9,148 per weighted student. Michael finds that every time total spending increases by $1,000, the percentage of high-performing school districts increases. Every time this spending decreases, academic achievement decreases as well. 

Michael found that 51.8% of school districts who spend above the state median are high achieving, with more of their students scoring proficient or above than the statewide median on all three PSSA state exams. Only 24.1% of districts spending below the median reach this mark.

"Let's hope that this is the year when Pennsylvania makes real progress toward closing the worst opportunity gap in the nation," Michael writes. "Today's children can't wait, and shouldn't have to wait, for full education funding to become a reality." Read Michael's op-ed in the Pennsylvania Capital-Star.

Welcome our new Director of Development and Communications, Dena Driscoll!
Dena Driscoll

We are very excited to welcome Dena Driscoll to our team as Director of Development and Communications!

Dena will create and execute a comprehensive annual development plan to raise money from foundations and individual donors. She will also direct our communications efforts and work to strengthen our visibility through strategic programming and outreach.

Over the past ten years Dena has held leadership and fundraising positions at several nonprofits in the city of Philadelphia including Neighborhood Bike Works, Smith Memorial Playground, Elferth's Alley, and Bartram's Garden. Her background has given her a unique perspective of how public space, history, and education can meet for modern use. Help us welcome Dena by liking her post on LinkedIn!
Join us for "Eviction: The Hidden Crisis" on May 16
An exterior of an apartment building 
Eviction is widespread in Philadelphia. More than 20,000 people face eviction each year here. Join us, on May 16, 2019, for "Eviction: The Hidden Crisis" to learn more about this issue and meet with our staff and clients.  

A short presentation will be provided about our current work helping tenants stand up for themselves when landlords fail to provide safe housing, as well as our historical work on housing rights. Hear directly from several of our recent clients about their personal stories. A reception with catered food will follow. Part of our 50th Anniversary event series. 
When: Thursday, May 16, 5:30 - 7:30 p.m.
Where: Tactix Real Estate Advisors, 100 North 18th Street, Philadelphia, PA.
Cost: Free, registration required (space is limited!)
Many thanks to our event sponsor,  Tactix 
Check out the new Grounded in Philly!

We are proud to launch our newly redesigned Grounded in Philly website, an online resource ecosystem for urban agriculture. The new site has interactive pathways to guide users to the information that is most relevant to their particular situation.  It also includes the Grapevine forum, a new tool for organizing and crowd-sourced problem solving. Check out the new site here: . You can read more about Grounded in Philly in this report from Generocity, "Neighborhood gardens grow community as much as food. Now there is an online tool to help."

If you have any questions or feedback, please contact Jonathan McJunkin at Every neighborhood should have open green community space. Let's make it happen together.   

A screen capture of the new website
A screen capture of the new website

Thank you to everyone who came out to our launch party and Vacant Land 215 training at One Art Community Center on April 11! Check out some photos from the event.

Ebony speaking at a table during Vacant Land 215

Get Involved at Our School Funding Briefing on May 23 
Pennsylvania is ranked 46th in the share of funding that comes from the state, leaving local taxpayers to take on rising costs. How did we get here? At our School Funding Briefing, hosted by the Upper Darby School Board, you will learn the basics of education funding and how it works in Pennsylvania, as well as ways you can get involved in advocacy for fully funded public education. You will also learn about the latest developments in our school funding lawsuit.  Part of our 50th Anniversary event series 

When: Thursday, May 23, 6:30 - 8 p.m. 

Where: Drexel Hill Middle School, 3001 State Road, Upper Darby, PA 19026

Cost: Free

Take Action: Defend General Assistance
Pennsylvania House of Representatives Chamber
Pennsylvania House of Representatives Chamber

General Assistance provides a small monthly stipend to the poorest Pennsylvanians, including people who are waiting to be approved for Social Security disability benefits and cannot work. This program was reinstated in November 2018, but now, a bill in the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives, HB 33, seeks to eliminate this assistance.  Use this tool to look up your State Representative.  Call and express your support for this program, which helps our most vulnerable neighbors meet their basic needs. You can use the following script from PA Health Access Network if you are unsure of what to say: 

"Hello, my name is ____ and I'm a constituent of Rep. _____'s. I'm calling to encourage Representative ___ to vote NO on House Bill 33, a bill that is currently making its way through the PA House.

HB 33 would eliminate General Assistance, a small targeted program that provides about $200 per month for individuals who are disabled, in treatment for substance use disorder, or escaping domestic violence. It is often the difference between someone being able to pay rent and wash clothes, or ending up in a more costly shelter or hospital.  Thousands of vulnerable Pennsylvanians rely on this assistance to get back on their feet.  Please encourage Representative ___ to vote NO on HB 33."

Welcome Mira Baylson and Donald Perelman to our Board of Directors!
Mira Baylson
Mira Baylson
Donald Perelman
We are please to welcome two new members to our Board of Directors, Mira Baylson and Donald Perelman. Help us welcome them by liking their post on LinkedIn

Mira Baylson is Counsel at Akin Gump. She focuses on white collar defense and complex commercial litigation. Mira served as co-counsel in our class action challenge to the Philadelphia Federal Detention Center's visitation policy for pre-trial detainees, one of the strictest in the country, which prevented many detainees from seeing their children.

Donald Perelman is a member of Fine, Kaplan and Black, R.P.C. He has extensive experience in antitrust, class action and other complex litigation, and was named a Pennsylvania Super Lawyer by Philadelphia Magazine.

Blast from the Past: Halderman v. Pennhurst and the Movement for Community-Based Services for People with Disabilities
The dining room at Pennhurst State School and Hospital 
The dining room at Pennhurst State School and Hospital
To celebrate our 50th anniversary, we will look back throughout the year on past cases that help form the foundation of our work today.

In 1974, we filed a class-action lawsuit, Halderman v. Pennhurst, on behalf of residents of Pennhurst State School and Hospital. Pennhurst was a large institution where the State of Pennsylvania warehoused and segregated thousands of people with developmental disabilities. Residents were often needlessly restrained, denied educational services, and abused by staff in prison-like conditions. We sought to transition Pennhurst residents from an isolated institutional setting to integrated educational and care services in their communities. After nearly a decade of litigation, and three appearances in the United States Supreme Court, we reached a settlement to close the facility in 1986.
The case was a catalyst of the movement for community-based services for people with disabilities. We filed similar class action lawsuits across the country over a period of nearly 40 years. Because of this movement, the resident population of large institutions like Pennhurst declined from 200,000 in 1967 to 33,000 in 2009. Many thousands of people are now able to fully contribute to and experience community life, and their experiences belie the prejudiced notions about people with developmental disabilities that fueled institutionalization and abuse.   
Save the Date: Our 50th Anniversary Event Series 
We are hosting a series of events throughout the year highlighting our history, our work today, and our plans for the future. Mark your calendars, and stay tuned for more information and events as the year goes on! If you have any questions about these events, please contact Michael Berton at or 267-546-1303.

Yards Brewing Company

Young Professionals Networking Event

Thursday, June 13, 2019, 6-9 p.m.
Yards Brewing Company, 500 Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia, PA 19123
$25. Includes drinks and snacks.

Join us at Yards Brewing Company to network with other young professionals and learn about our work combating employment discrimination, both for those with criminal histories and those with disabilities. Enjoy Yards beer and tasty hors d'oeuvres while networking in a relaxed and unstructured environment.

Philadelphia  rowhouse cityscape

Gun Safety CLE

Thursday, August 15, 2019, 4-6:30 p.m.
Panel discussion begins at 4:15 p.m.;Reception from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Magna Legal Services, 1635 Market Street, Philadelphia, 19103
$75 for attorneys; $25 for non-attorneys, public interest, and law clerks

Join us on for a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) class on gun safety. In Philadelphia, gun violence is an epidemic. Last year, in addition to the 249 Philadelphians killed in shootings, over 1,100 people were shot and survived, leaving many with lifelong disabilities and ongoing medical costs. 

Learn what lawyers can do to promote gun safety and take on gun violence from our expert panel. Afterwards, join us for a reception with drinks and food in Magna Legal Services' modern event space.

A voting booth

A Celebration of the Right to Vote 

Thursday, November 7, 2019
7303 Emlen Street, Philadelphia, PA 19119

Law Center board member Howard Langer will host advocates for democracy at a cocktail party celebrating our long and storied history of defending and strengthening the right to vote. Learn more about what's coming next in this important work and how you can get involved.