January 2021
Greetings and best wishes for the new year! Thanks for your continued partnership.
Spreading the Word About Our Challenge to a Broken Funding System
The trial in our case challenging the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s broken school funding system is just months away. While our attorneys prepare for the big trial in Commonwealth Court and await the schedule, we are working to make the most of this opportunity to spotlight the problem of inadequate and inequitable funding and let Pennsylvania officials know they need to fix it.

We hope you will join attorneys from ELC and the Public Interest Law Center to learn more in one of two webinars about the case this month: Jan. 13 at noon or Jan. 27 at 7 pm. The Jan. 27 event, co-sponsored by Education Voters PA, will focus on funding issues facing students and schools in the Lehigh Valley. Or you can watch a recently recorded video with our attorneys, available in English and Spanish. You can learn more about the case and sign up for newsletter updates on a new website devoted to the lawsuit.
Special Education Funding Needs Attention
With Gov. Wolf’s 2021-22 budget message just a month away, ELC and the PA Schools Work campaign have been publicizing the findings of our recent report on the state’s shirking of its responsibility for special education funding and the impact that is having on local school districts across Pennsylvania. The report called for Harrisburg to provide multiyear increases of $100 million or more in special education funding to reverse the years of decline in the state share of costs for educating students with disabilities.

In a column, the editor of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star argued that this issue “should be moved to the front of the queue” for state legislators. Our report was also featured in the Reading Eagle, which highlighted the impact on school districts in Berks County, and news stories appeared in other outlets including the Capital-Star, Public Source, Beaver County Radio, and Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Federal Relief for Schools Is Finally on the Way
Education advocates spent much of the past year pleading with Congress to provide desperately needed financial relief to schools. Senate Republicans held out for months, arguing that the aid in the April CARES Act bill was sufficient, but finally relented. Ultimately, on Dec. 27, so did President Trump. The education aid package in this new bill while still far short of what we and advocates in the PA Schools Work campaign advocated for is substantial; it is four times as large as the CARES Act aid. About $2 billion of the $54 billion in K-12 education aid should be headed to Pennsylvania schools, mostly targeted via the federal Title I formula to schools with larger numbers of students from low-income families.

Unfortunately, the impact of the federal financial relief to schools is undercut in part by the refusal of Congress to approve an aid package for state and local governments to counterbalance shrinking tax revenues. State aid for schools has been spared from cuts in Pennsylvania so far. But ELC will be keeping its eye on the state budget and also looking for an initiative from the incoming Biden administration and Congress to address some of the shortcomings in the federal aid package.
Confronting Deep Racial Inequities
in Pittsburgh Schools
ELC joined renowned Pittsburgh advocate Wanda Henderson, Gwen’s Girls, and the Black Girls Equity Alliance for a “call to action” event to close the opportunity gap for Black students in Pittsburgh Public Schools, held virtually on Dec. 10.

Responding to the longstanding inequities highlighted in a November report from the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, ELC attorney Cheryl Kleiman and attorney Tashira Halyard lifted up possible avenues for community-led legal strategies. They also addressed the challenges inherent in law and policy reforms when transformative change is needed for Black students. ELC will be continuing these conversations with our public interest Legal Alliance and pro bono partners, as well as parent, student, and community collaborators. 
Like ELC, Eagles Prioritize Educational Equity
ELC was thrilled to receive a gift of $25,000 as one of 25 grants from the Philadelphia Eagles Social Justice Fund last month and honored to be the grantee they chose to highlight in a video. That prompted a surprise December Zoom call (which later aired on TV see photo), where ELC staff were greeted by two of the grantmakers: safety Rodney McLeod and quarterback Carson Wentz.

McLeod explained the players’ decision to prioritize grants ensuring public education for all: “We had a lot of conversations, and the focal point was ending systemic racism. I think education lies at the forefront of that for us.”

While staff cheered the players with an “E-A-G-L-E-S, Eagles” chant, ELC would be remiss not to add: “Here we go, Steelers!” 
Thank you for supporting ELC!
A big thank you to the many of you who donated to our end-of-year campaign. Now more than ever, your contribution helps ensure that all children in Pennsylvania have access to quality public education, including children living in poverty, children of color, children with disabilities, children in the foster care and juvenile justice systems, LGBTQ youth, English learners, and children experiencing homelessness. We could not do this important work without you. Thank you!

Missed the December opportunity? Please consider a gift today to help us start 2021 strong! 
Defending Parents’ Rights to
Translation Services
ELC’s Independence Foundation fellow Sophia Tan continues to advocate for interpretation and translation of key education documents for families who don’t speak English, a common barrier faced across Pennsylvania. She successfully advocated for “Clarisa,” a 5th grader in a school district outside Philadelphia, to receive a 504 Plan to address barriers to her learning due to ADHD and anxiety.

Clarisa’s mother Natalia and her mental health providers had been trying for two years to get Clarisa evaluated for special education. The school had inappropriately used Clarisa as an interpreter for her mother instead of upholding her right to school-based translation services. They had provided no documents to Natalia in her preferred language related to the special education process or her parental rights. At the eligibility meeting, we developed a 504 Plan with the school team and improved language access for Natalia so she can exercise her right to participate in Clarisa’s education. 
We're Hiring a Development Director
ELC is seeking an experienced development professional for a full-time position in our Philadelphia office. The candidate should have 8-10 years of experience in development for a nonprofit, particularly working with individual donors, events and sponsorships, and foundations. The ideal candidate will also have a demonstrated commitment to civil rights, racial justice, and advancing the rights of underserved populations. Please click here for a full description. 
What We're Reading/Watching...

Teacher Diversity in Pennsylvania from 2013-14 to 2019-20 by Anna Shaw-Amoah, David Lapp, and Dae Kim for Research for Action

Recommendations on School Climate, Discipline, and Safety by The Communities for Just Schools Fund

Whiteness at Work by The Adaway Group.
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.