Our statement on Governor Tom Wolf's historic proposal to increase state funding for public education

Quotes from our statement on the governor_s budget
On February 2, Governor Tom Wolf unveiled a proposal to increase state funding for public education in Pennsylvania by $1.55 billion and distribute most of that money to districts with significant unmet needs using the state's funding formula. Currently, Pennsylvania ranks near the bottom nationwide in its share of education funding that comes from the state, leading to an over-reliance on local wealth that drives deep inequality and persistent underfunding in low-wealth districts. Read more about the Governor's proposal in this report from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

We joined Education Law Center-PA, our co-counsel in the case taking on Pennsylvania's inadequate and inequitable school funding system, to release a statement applauding this proposal for its historic investment in public education. We also explained why our case will continue, even if the General Assembly passes the Governor's proposal. Read the full statement on FundOurSchoolsPA.org.

"The magnitude of our students' unmet needs is immense, and growing by the day," said our staff attorney Dan Urevick-Ackelsberg. "While the hole we have dug is far too large to climb out of in a single year, the governor's proposal is precisely the first step we need. The legislature should pass it immediately, and then get to work on its constitutional obligation: ensuring that all Pennsylvania students have the resources they need to thrive. Only when the legislature finally lives up to its constitutional mandate will our case end."
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As potential outsourcing moves forward, Chester-Upland parents are still fighting for educational equity

February 6 rally for educational equity
February 6 rally for educational equity
In Chester-Upland School District, a Requests for Proposals (RFP) process that could lead to every public school in the district being outsourced to charter or private management continues to move forward. Yesterday was the deadline for bidders to submit their proposals to the District's court-appointed receiver. So far, one bidder--Chester Community Charter School (CCCS), the district's current largest charter operator--has made their bid public. CCCS seeks to convert two of the district's public elementary schools, Main Street Elementary and the Chester Upland School for the Arts, to charter schools. Several public schools in the district routinely outperform CCCS on standardized tests.

Six other charter school operators or for-profit educational management companies--American Paradigm; CSMI Education Management; Friendship Education Foundation; Global Leadership Academy; Great Oaks/Baltimore Collegiate Academy; and People for People Charter Schools--had previously expressed interest in submitting bids, but the receiver has not yet revealed to the public which of these operators followed through. The process has the potential to result in Chester-Upland becoming the first district in the state to be entirely converted to charter or private management. We will continue to advocate for a fully transparent process that allows parents to make their voice heard for a quality education, not a foregone conclusion of broad outsourcing or privatization. 

"What we will be most anticipating and keeping our eye on is that there are supposed to be public presentations done by these bidders where the community can come and ask questions, and meaningfully supervise what they're saying, what they want to do," said our staff attorney Claudia De Palma in The Delaware County Daily Times. "What we see as our task in the next couple months is to make sure that it's out there, and the purpose of getting it out there is so that the community - which is quite a force and quite an engaged force - can really think about what's going on and ask hard questions."

Along with Education Law Center, we are representing a group of Chester parents and the Delaware County Advocacy & Resource Organization, who intervened in the process to fight for a voice and for quality education that serves all students. 

Parents and teachers in the district have been standing up for education quality and scrutinizing the fast-tracked RFP process, which many see as a continuation of a history of neglect, racial discrimination, and disinvestment without regard to their students. On February 6, they held a rally outside Chester High School demanding educational equity"Don't put profit over children," said parent Carol Kazeem. "It's starting to turn into a business. Our kids are not for sale...The American Dream, it ain't working for all of us. And it starts here, education." Another rally will be held at the Delaware County Courthouse in Media on Saturday February 27 at 1:30 p.m
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We're saying goodbye to our Executive Director, Jennifer Clarke, after 15 years

A collage of photos of Jenny throughout her tenure as Executive Director
A collage of photos of Jenny throughout her tenure as Executive Director
Today is a bittersweet day as we say goodbye to our Executive Director, Jennifer Clarke, on her last day at the Law Center after 15 years of leadership. On Monday, March 1, we are excited to welcome Brenda Marrero as our next Executive Director. Read more about Brenda on our website

Jennifer's tenure at the helm of the Law Center was marked by increased stability for our organization and landmark litigation victories for the people we serve: striking down Pennsylvania's Voter ID law, expanding access to healthcare for children served by Medicaid, re-launching our housing and environmental justice projects, and so much more. At Thursday's City Council meeting, Councilmember Helen Gym introduced a resolution honoring Jennifer for her career of service. "Throughout her career, Clarke has stood as an example of engaged citizenship, trailblazing leadership, and commitment to the principles of equality," the resolution reads. "The City of Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are fortunate to have her as a champion."

Our organization is lucky to have her as a champion as well, and we wish her the best on her future endeavors. Join us in thanking Jenny on Facebook!
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We wrote a letter demanding that the School District of Philadelphia improve transition services for students with disabilities

Students with disabilities and their allies SDAG at the University of Michigan
Students with disabilities and their allies (SDAG) at the University of Michigan
On February 23, we led a group of eight organizations and three public school parents to send a letter to the President of the Philadelphia Board of Education, expressing our concern that students with disabilities in the School District of Philadelphia are not being adequately prepared to reach their goals for life after high school. In Pennsylvania, students with disabilities between the age of 14 and 21 are legally entitled to receive transition services to help them prepare for employment, further education, and independent living.
In our letter, we provided key insights from an October 2020 City Council hearing on the issue, which we organized in collaboration with City Council's Committees of Disabled and Persons with Special Needs and Education. Several of the panelists that testified at the hearing, including parents of current and former District students with disabilities, disability advocates, and transition service providers, emphasized that comprehensive transition planning should be the cornerstone of education for students with disabilities, who often face significant hurdles after high school. The hearing also shed light on the fact that the District is not currently providing students with disabilities with sufficient transition planning and services that they need to succeed, with data showing that 60 percent of eligible students in 2017-18 did not receive the services they were entitled to. Multiple parents of students with disabilities testified about the ways in which the District's lack of appropriate transition planning and services has hampered their children's progress towards employment, further education, and independent living.
The hearing testimony underscored the fact that the right supports and services can make a student's transition from high school to adult life much more successful. For example, opportunities to work alongside non-disabled peers are one of the most effective tools for achieving post-graduation success for students with disabilities, but because of enrollment limits, only a very small fraction of eligible students can participate in these programs in Philadelphia.
In our letter, we called on the Board, which recently redoubled its commitment to ensure that all District students graduate college and career ready, to undertake a review of the District's transition services programming and commit the necessary financial resources to ensure the District can improve and expand transition planning.

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Check out our 2019 Annual Report: Standing Up for Change 

Standing Up For Change
Welcome to our 2019 annual report! Yes, 2019. It isn't a typo. As with everything else in our lives, everything in our new at-home "office" turned upside down during the annus horribilis that was 2020.

 As this chronicle of the comparatively simpler days of 2019 reminds us, the injustices of today are not new. We are here for the long term, because the inequity we see now is deeply entrenched and has existed for generations, if not centuries.

Take Action: Sign a petition from the Pennsylvania Safety Alliance demanding common-sense gun laws in PA

The launch of PA Safety Alliance in Harrisburg last summer. Each X represents a victim of gun violence
The launch of PA Safety Alliance in Harrisburg last summer. Each X represents a victim of gun violence
Last year was among the worst in our Commonwealth's history for gun violence, with 499 murders in the City of Philadelphia alone. This trend is not new: according the CDC, firearm fatalities, including suicides, rose in Pennsylvania every year from 2014 to 2018. On February 17, eight people between the ages of 17 and 70 were shot in a mass shooting at the Olney Transportation Center in Philadelphia.

We must use every available tool to take on this public health emergency, including laws that help keep firearms out of the hands of those who would harm themselves or others. The PA Safety Alliance (PSA), a statewide coalition we helped found to stand up for gun safety laws that research has shown will save laws, is demanding that the General Assembly in Harrisburg finally take action.

Sign PA Safety Alliance's petition to contact your state legislator. PSA is demanding common-sense gun laws, like permit-to-purchase licensing laws that have reduced gun violence in states across the country. "We do not believe that gun violence is something that Pennsylvanians should just accept as a daily part of our lives," the petition reads. "We believe that the process of acquiring firearms in Pennsylvania should reflect the needs and concerns of Pennsylvanians."

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