Court ruling brings us closer to educational justice in PA
Today, we celebrate another victory for public school students across Pennsylvania. This morning, the
Commonwealth Court overruled objections
filed by state legislative leaders and moved our school funding lawsuit closer to trial. Pennsylvania's schoolchildren continue to suffer extraordinary harm due to severe underfunding and gross inequalities. But today’s ruling brings us closer to resolving these issues. Here's the coverage in
The lawsuit –
William Penn School District, et al. v. Pennsylvania Dept. of Education, et al.
– was filed in 2014 on behalf of parents, school districts, and statewide organizations challenging our legislature’s failure to adequately and equitably fund public education. The Education Law Center and the Public Interest Law Center represent the families, school districts, and statewide organizations that seek to provide all students with the resources they need to succeed academically and thrive.
In addition to dismissing preliminary objections, the court has directed the parties to address two issues before trial – mootness and the level of scrutiny applicable to our constitutional claim. We look forward to responding on both issues in the coming weeks.
On the first, the case clearly is not made moot by the adoption of a new state funding formula. Only 2% of education spending in the state is driven out through the 2016 funding formula. As parents, teachers, and administrators in underfunded schools will tell you, their schools remain significantly underfunded. As the state’s Supreme Court concluded, changes in the formula “do not render the questions presented moot.” Our school children still face a fundamental lack of basic resources – from overcrowded classrooms to crumbling buildings to understaffing and outdated textbooks.
Second, virtually anyone in the state would concede that education is an important right. That means it demands a higher level of scrutiny to justify the existing gross disparities between low- and high-wealth school districts. Pennsylvania still has the greatest disparities of anywhere in the nation and ranks 47th in the country in the proportion of total K-12 education funding provided by the state. We will continue to urge the court to reject the position of legislative leaders that education is neither a fundamental nor an important right.
Our work for the coming months is clear. We’re going to prove two things that are obvious to everyone in the Commonwealth: Education is an important right, and the failure to adequately and equitably fund education continues to harm our students.
Thank you for your continued interest in our work and
of these efforts.
Deborah Gordon Klehr, Executive Director