Legislators Fail in Attempt to Exclude Data on Racial Disparities in our School Funding Case
Mere months away from the trial in our school funding case, Pennsylvania legislative leaders attempted to block evidence of racial disparities in the case. They claimed that this data, which shows that Black and Latino students are concentrated in the most underfunded school districts, is irrelevant to the lawsuit and is simply an attempt to appeal to the emotions of the court.

On July 28, Commonwealth Court Judge Renée Cohn Jubelirer largely rejected this motion, after noting that courts around the country have found outcomes for children of color relevant to claims regarding the effectiveness of a system for all students.  

“We are grateful that the Commonwealth Court agreed with us today,” said staff attorney Claudia De Palma, who argued the case on behalf of Petitioners. “Students of color are concentrated in low-wealth school districts across the Commonwealth, and suffer significant educational opportunity gaps that lead to massive achievement gaps as a result. Although this case is not a race discrimination case, this data is plainly relevant to determining whether or not our school funding system meets the needs of all children in Pennsylvania, as our state constitution requires.”
The decision was covered by Lancaster Online and Chalkbeat Philadelphia. Learn More, and sign up at FundOurSchoolsPA.org to get involved and read the latest updates on the case.
Lawsuit Against FDC Philadelphia Concludes Amid Extensive Vaccination Efforts
On July 8, prisoners in Philadelphia’s Federal Detention Center (FDC) ended a lawsuit filed against the facility in April 2020. Amidst the rapidly spreading COVID-19 pandemic, the lawsuit alleged that the federal jail was not adequately protecting its population from the deadly disease, as detainees were largely unable to exercise even basic safety precautions.

Our advocacy has led to significantly improved access to COVID-19 vaccination within the FDC after initial vaccination delivery in the facility involved a large disparity between prisoners and staff. Vaccines are now available to all prisoners and staff in the facility, and as of August 3, 471 prisoners and 184 staff have been vaccinated for COVID-19. To provide independent, accurate, and relevant information, the FDC also agreed to show all prisoners a video of medical professionals and formerly incarcerated individuals detailing the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“FDC Philadelphia is in a much better position now than it was last April,” said Ben Geffen, Staff Attorney at the Public Interest Law Center. “Everyone in our criminal justice system has the right to basic personal safety, and we are happy with the progress that the FDC and the Court have made in addressing our clients’ concerns about how COVID-19 has been handled.”

Learn More. This case was part of the Richard Berkman & Toni Seidl Health Care Justice Project.
Law Center in the News: School funding lawsuit could help students across Pennsylvania get what they need
The trial in our landmark case challenging Pennsylvania’s school funding system is only one month away. In a July 24 piece for Western Pennsylvania's Trib Live, our attorney Michael Churchill debunked the misconception that our case seeks to take resources away from some school districts. He explains that, rather than trying to merely redistribute Pennsylvania’s current inadequate state funding, our case asks Pennsylvania to determine what resources students need in order to receive a quality public education. The General Assembly should then provide the state funding necessary so that every student can receive that quality public education, whether or not they live in a wealthy community that is able to raise the needed funds with local taxes. “If you’re having a party with 100 guests, one pizza is not going to be enough, no matter how fairly you slice it,” Michael wrote. “The pie needs to be bigger.”

“By failing to determine and provide what kids need, our leaders in Harrisburg are giving up on the potential of hundreds of thousands of kids all over Pennsylvania who live in low-wealth communities from the Laurel Highlands to the Lehigh Valley. It is past time to change that,” he wrote. “The trial starting Sept. 9 will allow students and communities to finally force the Legislature to live up to their constitutional duty.”

Brenda Marrero honored with 2021 Justice Sonia Sotomayor Award
On July 28, our Executive Director Brenda Marrero received the 2021 Justice Sonia Sotomayor Award from the Philadelphia Bar Association, honoring strong commitment to promoting full and equal participation and inclusion in the legal profession.

Before joining the Law Center in March, Brenda spent her career as a public interest attorney. Most recently, she served as the Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer for Community Legal Services of Philadelphia where she implemented organizational visions around diversity, equity, and belonging.

“By embracing our differences, celebrating diversity with authenticity, creating inclusive environments where people like me and my fellow Latina lawyers feel like they belong, we will realize the promise of equity in our legal profession,” Brenda said in her remarks. Read her speech here. Congratulations on this well-deserved honor!

Join us October 21 for our Annual Celebration: The Promise of Equity and Justice
The Walnut Street Theater
A golfer tees off
On October 21, join us for our annual gala as we celebrate all those who are helping to advance equity and justice in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania. Our celebration will be held live at Vie on Broad Street, or simulcast in your home.

The event will feature a silent auction filled with magnificent items, including tickets to Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Theatre, a Round of Golf for 4 at the luxurious Bala Golf Club, and much, much more!

For tickets, sponsorships or more information, please contact Michael Berton at mberton@pubintlaw.org or 267-546-1303.

When: Thursday, October 21, 2021, 6-9 p.m.

Where: Vie, 600 North Broad Street, Philadelphia PA
Thank You to our Summer Interns!
Throughout our second summer in a virtual environment, our interns provided outstanding support to our ongoing work. Thank you to our terrific summer 2021 interns: legal interns Suzy Bernstein (Temple University Beasley School of Law), Christian Hoban (Temple University Beasley School of Law), Trevor Kirby (University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School), and Kate Kobriger (Columbia Law School); undergraduate interns Leah Dunbar (University of Pennsylvania) and Isiuwa Omoigui (Yale University); and high school intern Catherine Jacobson (Lewisburg High School). Help us thank them by liking their post on Facebook!.