February 2019
Statewide Campaign Calls for a Bold School Funding Increase
Blake Emmanuel, a parent, special education advocate, and school board member from Phoenixville, calls for major increases in state funding for both special and basic education at 1/30 press conference.
With Gov. Tom Wolf’s annual budget address scheduled for February 5, the Education Law Center and the statewide PA Schools Work campaign have been underscoring a message to the governor: Having won re-election as a public education booster, now is his moment to implement historic increases in funding for schools.

The campaign has called on the governor to propose a budget with a $510 million package of increases, including $400 million in new funds for basic education, $100 million for special education, and $10 million for career and technical education. Campaign members have communicated this message with rounds of letters , op-eds , emails, social media posts, and a January 30 press conference at the Capitol.

ELC staff, along with leaders of other child advocacy organizations, have been meeting with officials in Harrisburg to urge these bold increases in school funding. We emphasize that past increases have been insufficient to meet the growing challenges across the state, particularly in districts serving students with the greatest educational needs. The campaign has bolstered its arguments with research studies like ELC’s October  report , “Shortchanging Children with Disabilities,” and a recent Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children analysis of the underfunding of career and technical education .

We hope you will join in the effort by contacting Gov. Wolf today in support of a $510 million package.
ELC Advances its Special Ed Funding Work and Pushes for Equity
Deborah Gordon Klehr spoke at a Jan. 23 PA House Democratic Policy Committee hearing.
Following our special education funding report, ELC continued to highlight those urgent funding needs, writing Gov. Tom Wolf in January to emphasize the importance of a $100 million increase in special education funding as well as a $400 million increase in basic education, to be distributed to districts through the existing funding formulas. Read our   letter press release , and  news   coverage .

ELC executive director Deborah Gordon Klehr spoke at a January 23   PA House Democratic Policy Committee   hearing on school funding, highlighting that the state still doesn't allocate adequate funds to districts with the highest concentration of poor students and students of color.

Meanwhile, ELC attorneys are working intensively along with our partners at the Public Interest Law Center on our litigation challenging the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s funding system. The case is now in the fact discovery phase, which will continue for most of 2019, with a trial tentatively scheduled for summer 2020.
Third Circuit Issues Precedential Decision Regarding Rights of Homeless Students
In response to a motion filed by ELC , the Third Circuit Court of Appeals has re-issued its opinion in G.S. v. Rose Tree Media School District as precedential, which means that the court's opinion can be used to support arguments in similar cases in other courts. ELC filed the motion following a positive ruling that marked a major victory for students living “doubled-up” who are often under-identified as homeless by schools. The Court’s ruling held in part that the McKinney-Vento Act “does not impose a limit on the duration of homelessness,” and schools cannot unilaterally declare a child ineligible when the child’s circumstances remain unchanged.

The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, Homeless Children’s Education Fund, and People’s Emergency Center joined ELC in filing the motion. The Third Circuit is the first federal appellate court to address the educational provisions of the McKinney-Vento Act. Thank you to our pro-bono partners at Morgan Lewis for their assistance on the initial amicus brief filed in this case.
ELC Weighs in as Amicus in Important Pending Litigation
ELC filed an amicus brief for the second time in Nicole B. v. School District of Philadelphia , a case brought under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) regarding a Philadelphia student who was relentlessly harassed based on his race and nonconformance with gender stereotypes.

The brief, filed with Juvenile Law Center and the Public Interest Law Center, is in support of a request for the PA Supreme Court to review this case, where the school failed to intervene, allowing verbal harassment to escalate to multiple physical assaults -- and, ultimately, to rape. The Commonwealth Court had refused to consider the merits of the case because the student, who was nine at the time he was raped, did not file his claim within 180 days of the incident. Under a legal doctrine known as minority tolling, the time limit for bringing a child’s claim generally does not begin until age 18. Our brief challenges the court ruling that minority tolling does not apply to PHRA claims.

ELC also joined the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates in filing an amicus brief in Lejeune G. v. Khepera Charter School, which is currently pending before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. This case addresses the duty of the PA Department of Education to ensure a free, appropriate public education for students with disabilities living in poverty who are affected by a charter school’s failure to meet its obligations.

We are also pleased to report that on January 16, Tamaqua Area School District voted to postpone implementation of its dangerous new policy to arm school personnel. This occurred in response to public outcry and a lawsuit filed by the Tamaqua Education Association, the union for classroom teachers, guidance counselors, and librarians challenging the policy. ELC joined with our partners at Public Interest Law Center and Public Citizens for Children and Youth in filing an amicus brief in support of the lawsuit in December.
Legal Director Writes Op-Ed on Residential Placements
ELC legal director Maura McInerney and Juvenile Law Center senior attorney Kate Burdick published an op-ed that highlights the urgent need to overhaul Pennsylvania’s current system of residential placements for children in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. The piece summarizes the findings and recommendations of two recent reports -- one issued by ELC and Children’s Rights Inc. and one by JLC -- that detail proposed reforms to support children to remain in their communities and to ensure critical oversight and accountability for children who may continue to be placed in residential care.
ELC Highlights Needs of EL Students in School District of Philadelphia
ELC provided testimony to the Philadelphia school board’s Student Achievement and Support Committee on January 10, highlighting the educational needs of over 15,000 English learners across the District. ELC’s testimony focused on the need for more effective ESL instruction, prompt bilingual evaluations for students with suspected disabilities, and specialized support to ensure that EL students have access to high school opportunities and are college- and career-ready. We also joined with partners to submit a formal letter to the committee requesting a separate hearing focused exclusively on EL students. 
ELC Opposes Dept. of Ed's Proposed Rules for Title IX Investigations
ELC filed comments strongly opposing the U.S. Department of Education’s proposed rules for Title IX investigations. Title IX is a federal civil rights law that bars sex and gender discrimination in education. However, the proposed rules would protect schools from liability at the expense of the students who are most likely to experience sexual harassment. A 2017 survey found that 78% of LGBTQ K-12 students in Pennsylvania are harassed on the basis of their sexual orientation, 58% on the basis of their gender expression, and 52% on the basis of their gender; 60% of Black girls are sexually harassed before the age of 18; 56% of students ages 14-18 who are pregnant or parenting are kissed or touched without their consent; and students with disabilities are 2.9 times more likely than their peers to be sexually assaulted.

ELC staff also provided a training on this topic at the Girls Inc. of Greater Philadelphia first annual advocacy forum on January 23. Following the training, Girls Inc. staff, interns, girls, and parents participated in a letter-writing campaign to make their voices heard. We hope that our comments and those of other advocates will convince federal officials that the public is overwhelmingly opposed to the proposed changes, and they should not be instituted.
Upcoming Training to Focus on Inclusive Education
In ELC’s continuing work to ensure that parents and families have access to the information they need to ensure that their child with a disability has equal access to the full range of general education programs with supports and services, we are co-hosting a free February 11 event in Pittsburgh on “Making Inclusive Education A Reality for your Child” with the PEAL Center. Register online .
#MeTooPA Initiative Launched in Western PA
ELC joined with the Women’s Law Project January 17 in Pittsburgh for the kickoff of their #MeTooPA initiative, a confidential new service supporting Pennsylvania students and low-wage workers who have experienced sexual harassment or assault. We look forward to working with WLP and the many parents, students, and advocates working across the Commonwealth to improve school climates, create cultures of consent in our schools, and interrupt pathways to pushout -- especially for girls of color, LGBTQ students, and students with disabilities.
Welcome to Diana Diaz and Dr. Rotonya Carr
ELC is excited to welcome two new individuals to our community: Diana Diaz, our new paralegal, and Dr. Rotonya McCants Carr, M.D., our newest board member.

Diaz has dedicated her personal and professional time to empowering educationally underserved, low-income communities of color in both urban and rural settings. She is a graduate of the University of California. As a paralegal, Diaz will serve in a critical role supporting ELC’s attorneys in their work ensuring access to a quality public education for all students in Pennsylvania.

Carr is an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a hepatologist, physician-scientist, and director of the Liver Metabolism and Fatty Liver Clinic. Carr is a graduate of Harvard University and received her medical degree from Cornell University. She completed her residency and fellowship training at Harvard’s Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of Pennsylvania, respectively. Carr mentors students from high school through medical school and is a vice president of the Penn Alexander Home and School Association and on the board of the Parent Infant Center.

Welcome, Diana and Rotonya!
ELC: A Video Vignette
Have you watched our brief new video about the Education Law Center?

You can help ELC raise awareness about our work we do on behalf of thousands of underserved children across Pennsylvania by introducing your family, friends, and colleagues to the Education Law Center. This short video is an easy way to start! Please consider forwarding the link ( https://vimeo.com/308088555) or sharing this newsletter. We appreciate your help.
Education Law Center | 215-238-6970 (Philadelphia)| 412-258-2120 (Pittsburgh)|
A copy of the official registration and financial information of the Education Law Center may be obtained from the Department of State by calling toll-free, within Pennsylvania, 1-880-732-0999. Registration does not imply endorsement.