Mark your calendar: Oral argument on school funding legal issues July 26
The Pennsylvania Judicial Center in Harrisburg. 

Mark your calendars! We'll be back in court on July 26 for post-trial oral argument on the legal issues in the Pennsylvania school funding trial. Argument will be held at 9:30 a.m. in Courtroom 3001 of the Pennsylvania Judicial Center in Harrisburg, and the proceedings will be livestreamed by Commonwealth Court.

Trial in the case taking on the Pennsylvania state legislature's inadequate and inequitable school funding system wrapped up on March 10, 2022 with closing arguments. We're currently preparing post-trial briefs. All parties must file "findings of fact" and proposed "conclusions of law" by May 2, and amicus briefs from outside parties are due May 16. All parties will also file post-trial briefs on the legal issues in the case, with the final brief due on July 15. Following oral argument, the Court will make its decision. A final decision could come several months after the July 26 oral argument.

One of the central legal questions of the trial is what kind of education Pennsylvania public school students have the right to receive, according to the Pennsylvania state constitution. Pennsylvania’s education clause directs the state legislature to support ‘a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the commonwealth.’ There has been substantial disagreement throughout trial about what this constitutional provision means, but we believe it means a quality education that prepares students for today’s world.

Read more about post-trial proceedings in the Pennsylvania school funding case, and what to expect at oral argument. Stay tuned--we will share more information about how you can watch the argument unfold and get involved in the fight for fully and fairly funded public schools.
Renters standing up for safe housing in Philadelphia
RUP members delivered a letter to the acting director of code enforcement at the Philadelphia Department of Licenses & Inspections.

In Philadelphia, renters across the city face unsafe and unhealthy living conditions. The organized tenants of Renters United Philadelphia / Inquilinxs en la Lucha are fighting to change that for themselves, their neighbors, and renters across the city. On April 14, RUP members delivered a letter to the acting director of code enforcement at the department of Licenses & Inspections (L&I), asking the department for a meeting so they can better understand how to hold large landlords accountable for providing safe housing while protecting tenants from displacement. They are calling for proactive safety inspections of rental housing in Philadelphia—not just inspections in response to complaints from tenants.

Currently, Philadelphia is one of few large cities in the country with no affirmative housing inspection program. Though housing quality issues are widespread throughout the city, only 7% of rental units are inspected by L&I each year—and surveys estimate that at least 40% of rental housing units in Philadelphia are unlicensed. Philadelphia’s spotty code enforcement was highlighted in a recent report in the Philadelphia Inquirer, following a tragic rowhouse fire that killed a father and his three children in an un-licensed rent-to-own property that did not have functioning smoke detectors and had never been inspected. 
Urban Institute: PA one of a few states where poor students get less
On April 25, Chalkbeat reported on a newly revised study from the Urban Institute, a national think tank, on school funding in the United States. The study found that, in Pennsylvania, poor students received less funding than their peers for their education—despite a consensus among educators and researchers that low-income students need more support to access the same educational opportunities. Pennsylvania is one of just a handful of states where poor students receive less funding for their education than wealthier students. Urban Institute also found that Black and Latino students in Pennsylvania received 7% less funding than their white peers.

A previous version of the Urban Institute study, cited by legislative leaders during the school funding trial, found that Pennsylvania’s school funding was slightly progressive, providing more resources to low-income students. But that previous version of the study, as our attorneys discussed during trial, failed to properly account for funding that school districts receive and pass on to charter schools, inflating spending numbers for districts with large charter school populations. Urban Institute revised their methodology nationwide, significantly affecting results in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The Urban Institute study focused on low-income students, rather than poor school districts, and included low-income students who attend wealthy school districts. An analysis conducted by Penn State Professor Matt Kelly during the Pennsylvania school funding trial found a $4,800 per student funding gap between Pennsylvania’s poorest 20% of districts with the least local wealth and its wealthiest 20%.
Our Executive Director Brenda Marrero was featured by the Pennsylvania Bar Association's Minority Bar Committee
Our Executive Director Brenda Marrero was featured in a profile piece in the Spring issue of the Pennsylvania Bar Association Minority Bar Committee's quarterly publication, "Houston's Legacy." The newsletter is named for Charles Hamilton Houston, a civil rights lawyer and the former dean of Howard Law School. Houston, one of the leading attorneys attacking Jim Crow segregation, was a mentor to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

In the profile, Brenda recalls her family's journey to the United States when she was three years old. Her family sought asylum following the Nicaraguan Civil War, fleeing the country within a week following an assassination attempt against her father and mother. Brenda, who was inspired to become an attorney after seeing her mother experience discrimination at work, also describes her career as a public interest lawyer with Aids Law Project and Community Legal Services. "Every accomplishment I really appreciate, because I could have gone another direction," she said. "But I found a resilience, because it is a privilege to be a lawyer." Read the piece here.
We're looking for fall 2022 interns!
The Public Interest Law Center is seeking applications for our fall internship program. The Amy Ginensky & Andy Rogoff Emerging Advocate Initiative is our unpaid internship program for law students and undergraduates seeking an opportunity to immerse themselves in high impact legal work. At the Law Center, you’ll gain experience in civil rights law and learn the inner workings of one of Philadelphia’s premier public interest firms. All internship positions are located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with opportunities for remote or in-person participation. We encourage students to seek outside funding opportunities, work-study availability or school credit and we will gladly handle any necessary administrative requirements. We offer legal internships (with first preference given to 2L students), limited undergraduate internship opportunities, and development & communications internships for undergraduates.

Learn more about the positions and apply here. This is a competitive process and we will select candidates on a rolling basis as we receive applications.