Pennsylvania's school funding system declared unconstitutional in historic victory for students
February 7 was a historic day for Pennsylvania's children, and a before-and-after moment for public schools. Commonwealth Court Judge Renée Cohn Jubelirer ruled that Pennsylvania’s school funding system is unconstitutional and must be reformed.

In a 786-page decision, the court found that “All witnesses agree that every child can learn. It is now the obligation of the Legislature, Executive Branch, and educators, to make the constitutional promise a reality in this Commonwealth.”

The court ruled that the Pennsylvania Constitution requires that every student "receive a meaningful opportunity to succeed academically, socially, and civically, which requires that all students have access to a comprehensive, effective, and contemporary system of public education." But this fundamental right to an education has been denied to students who live in school districts with low property values and incomes, who have been "deprived of the same opportunities and resources as students who reside in school districts with high property values and incomes." These disparities, the court ruled, cannot be justified, and constitute a violation of these students' right to equal protection under the law.

With our co-counsel from Education Law Center - PA and O'Melveny, we released the following statement:

“Today’s decision declaring Pennsylvania’s school funding system unconstitutional is a historic victory for Pennsylvania’s public school children. It will change the future for millions of families, so that children are no longer denied the education they deserve. The court recognized that our schools require adequate funding to meet our constitution’s mandate.

It’s time for our state legislature to fund public schools in every corner of Pennsylvania so all students, whether or not they live in a wealthy community, can receive the quality public education guaranteed in our state constitution.”

Our clients, from small towns and cities in every corner of the state, stood up for years to make it clear that Pennsylvania's two-tiered public school funding system, divided by wealth, cannot continue. In Pennsylvania, a school district's local wealth has determined which fourth graders get the help they need in reading, which middle schoolers have safe buildings, and which teenagers can prepare for college. Students of color are concentrated in the lowest-wealth school districts, which are the most deeply underfunded. Pennsylvania has some of the nation's largest disparities in educational resources and opportunities between poor students and their peers, and between students of color and their white peers.

We proved that the students who need the most have the least, because the state legislature shortchanges low-wealth communities. It's time to change that.

So what happens now?

We expect our elected leaders in Harrisburg to get to work, this budget cycle, on a real solution for hundreds of thousands of students in low-wealth districts that the court recognized have been deeply shortchanged by inadequate state funding. As the court ruled, legislative leaders have a constitutional responsibility to provide for a comprehensive, contemporary and effective public education in every community, regardless of wealth.

We spoke with the Associated Press about our hopes and expectations for this year's state budget. "With court win, Pennsylvania schools want plan, down payment." We state that at least $2 billion in additional funding for public schools would be a down payment that recognizes the scope of the problem, and that we hope to see our elected leaders begin to develop a school funding system that funds public schools based on what students need.

Here are some highlights of press coverage of this historic decision

Check out some quotes from the decision below:
The Philadelphia Inquirer profiles Michael Churchill's decades-long fight for quality public education
On February 15, the Philadelphia Inquirer profiled our attorney Michael Churchill, highlighting his decades of dedication to civil rights and quality public education, including his role in the Pennsylvania school funding lawsuit, decided in favor of our clients this month.

“It was always just clear that if you really wanted to believe in the democratic values, you had to do something,” said Churchill. “You could not be a nation, a successful one, claiming one thing and then doing something else.”

Renters United Philadelphia stands up to an illegal eviction in progress
In an emergency rally held February 28 in North Philadelphia, the tenants of Renters United Philadelphia demanded the immediate restoration of Sherice Bradham's water, shut off by her landlords as part of an attempted illegal eviction. Ms. Bradham and her son had been without water for two weeks, since Feb. 14. They demanded action from City agencies and officials to hold landlords who conduct illegal evictions accountable. Some research shows that illegal evictions--in which tenants are forced out through intimidation, shutting off essential utilities, or harassment--may be more common than legal evictions carried out through the courts.

“Not even animals live like this,” Ms. Bradham said. “I have to collect rain water just to flush my toilet now. I never wanted my son to have to go through what I went through growing up in North Philadelphia with these same issues. The city needs to step up to hold landlords accountable and to keep renters safe in all neighborhoods.

As a result of this action, Renters United Philadelphia (RUP) was able to shed light on this issue that renters across the city often face in the dark while the city turns a blind eye. Thanks to the pressure from this action, Ms. Bradham was able to get a commitment from Councilmember Cindy Bass’ office to act quickly to ensure Ms. Bradham and her son have a safe and healthy home, and to work with L&I to hold this landlord accountable. We hope to see the Councilmember follow through on this promise for Ms. Bradham and for all renters in her district facing these same issues. RUP is an organization of organized tenants launched and hosted by the Law Center.

The emergency rally was covered by KYW News Radio.
Welcome our new part-time staff attorney,
Sarah Kang!
We're so excited to welcome Sarah Kang to our team as a part-time staff attorney focused on environmental justice!

Prior to joining the Law Center, Ms. Kang was a litigation associate for Morgan Lewis and Skadden. Ms. Kang also served as a volunteer for the Law Center for more than two years. Help us welcome Sarah by liking her post on LinkedIn!  
Welcome our new environmental justice organizer, Ryan Gittler-Muñiz!
We're so excited to welcome Ryan Gittler-Muñiz to our team as an environmental justice organizer!

In this one-year full-time role, they will develop and implement organizing campaign strategies as part of our Garden Justice Legal Initiative. Prior to joining the Law Center, Ryan organized with PA Youth Vote and Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Associations Coalition (SEAMAAC). Help us welcome Ryan by liking their post on LinkedIn!
We're hiring a new grants and development specialist
We are hiring for an exciting opportunity to join our Development and Communications Team (“Team”) as a Grants and Development Specialist. The Grants and Development Specialist (“Specialist”) will be a key member of the Team by helping our organization sustain and grow our foundations and grants revenue. The Specialist will manage a portfolio of 50 foundations and donor advised funds, and will be responsible for drafting, editing and submitting letters of intent (LOIs), stewardship reports (SRs) and proposals. The ideal candidate is a dynamic, energetic, results-oriented self-starter and team player with superb written, verbal, organizational and project management skills. The ideal candidate must be able to synthesize our legal work and write effective narratives in grant reports and applications.