School Funding Lawsuit Brief Shows Widening Inequality
 
Flickr user Max Klingensmith
Pennsylvania school districts remain unconstitutionally underfunded. I n fact, according to our recent filings in our school funding lawsuit, state funding available for classroom expenses in Pennsylvania has declined by $155.3 million since 2013, and spending gaps between wealthy and poor school districts have widened. 

On July 6, we filed our brief and affidavits from districts and parents in our  school funding lawsuit  refuting Senator Scarnati's claim that the lawsuit has been rendered moot by the school funding formula adopted in 2016. According to an affidavit from economist Mark Price of the Keystone Research Center, the need-based funding formula that the Pennsylvania legislature adopted two years ago only applies to a small fraction - less than 1.4% - of overall education funding in the state. In addition, any increases in state education funding since our lawsuit was filed in 2014 have not kept pace with rising fixed costs, such as annual unreimbursed pension expenses. Price also found that the gap in spending between a typical wealthy district and a typical poor district has grown from $3,058 per child to $3,778 per child since the lawsuit was filed. 

These joint filings with our co-counsel the Education Law Center and O'Melveny & Myers LLP were featured in newspaper coverage across the Commonwealth. Outlets include: the Philadelphia Inquirer, the DelCo Daily Times, the Philadelphia Public School Notebook, the Times Leader (of Wilkes-Barre) and the Tribune-Democrat (of Johnstown), among others. 

 
Students are Counting on You: Help Us Prepare for Their Day in Court

Fourth graders in the William Penn School District
In the William Penn School District, as a result of teacher layoffs, there are 46 elementary school classrooms with over 30 students in them. The facade of a high school in Wilkes-Barre is crumbling, but the district lacks the funds to fix it. The school is surrounded by fencing, and students and staff enter underneath protective sheds. In Lancaster, where more than 90 percent of students come from economically disadvantaged families, 500 children sit on a wait-list for Pre-K. 

Six superintendents from school districts who are petitioners in our school funding lawsuit filed affidavits this month describing these hardships and other shortfalls that they continue to face as they educate their students. We summarized these affidavits on our website

The stories from these six districts show that there is an urgent need to change Pennsylvania's inequitable and inadequate school funding system. We are closer than ever to students having their day in court, but legislative leaders are doing all they can to slow this case down. That's why we're asking our supporters to chip in today to our crowdfunding campaign and help us prepare the best trial possible. Your support will help us draft briefs, prepare witnesses, and keep education in the public dialogue.  Help us put our best foot forward as we enter the homestretch of our school funding lawsuit. 

EVENT: We Have New Districts--Now What? 
Redistricting Reform in Pennsylvania and Beyond
 
Pennsylvania's 2018 congressional district map

Wednesday, August 1
4:00-6:30 p.m.
Dechert LLP
Cira Center, 2929 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA

Attorney tickets: $75
Public interest, law clerk, and non-attorney tickets: $25

1 Substantive Pennsylvania CLE Credit is available to Pennsylvania attorneys. 


In early 2018, we obtained an historic ruling from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in our challenge to the state's gerrymandered 2011 U.S. Congressional map . What comes next?  Tomorrow , join our panel of experts , including two attorneys who led the historic case, for a broad-ranging discussion about the impact of the new map in Pennsylvania, decisions in other jurisdictions, and the future of redistricting reform nationwide. 
  • Mimi McKenzie, Legal Director, Public Interest Law Center
  • Ben Geffen, Staff Attorney, Public Interest Law Center
  • Carol Kuniholm, Chair, Fair Districts PA
  • Jonathan Lai, Staff Writer, Philadelphia Inquirer
  • Katie MeyerCapitol Bureau Chief, WITF
 Afterward, join us for a reception featuring great conversation, light food and drinks, and spectacular views of the city. Dechert LLP is an accessible location. If you have physical accessibility needs please contact Jonathan McJunkin at 267-546-1305 or  jmcjunkin@pubintlaw.org.

Hosted by


Thank you Kirtrina Baxter, Community Organizer! 
 
Kirtrina Baxter
After four years as the community organizer for our Garden Justice Legal Initiative, Kirtrina Baxter is moving on to new opportunities. She will continue organizing, leading, and growing Soil Generation, the black and brown-led coalition of radical gardeners and farmers that support one another and inform city policies so they value urban agriculture. We will continue our working relationship with Kirtrina and Soil Generation as we represent gardeners and farmers across the city and help them advocate for their needs. We are grateful for all the work Kirtrina has done and all that she has taught us during her tenure here! Help us thank Kirtrina and wish her well by liking our tribute post to her on Facebook!

Law Center Staff Recognized in the Community

George Donnelly
Our staff are active in the communities we serve. Two of our attorneys, fellow George Donnelly and staff attorney Ebony Griffin were recently recognized for their efforts. 

George Donnelly was named to Leadership Philadelphia's "Keepers" Class of 2019, along with 63 other millennial Philadelphia professionals and leaders.  The seven-month, invite-only program involves team building, professional development sessions and space to meet with Philadelphia civic and business leaders. In his work at the Law Center, George focuses on
targeting the severe power imbalance between tenants and landlords. George is a Penn Law Postgraduate Fellow funded by the Langer, Grogan & Diver Fellow in Social Justice.
Ebony Griffin

Ebony Griffin was recently appointed as a member of the Philadelphia Food Policy Advisory Council (FPAC). FPAC connects Philadelphians with their local government to create a more just food system. It envisions that all Philadelphians can access and afford healthy, sustainable, culturally appropriate, local, and fair food. In her work on the Law Center's Garden Justice Legal Initiative, Ebony helps communities across the city protect and preserve their gardens and farms, a reliable source of healthy food in a city with high levels of poverty and food insecurity.

Voting is Our Superpower: 2018 Annual Celebration!
 
Fringe Arts, as seen from last year's celebration

Join us and emcee Tamela Edwards of 6ABC to celebrate "Voting is our Superpower" and honor Arnold & Porter, the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and our 18 gerrymandering lawsuit clients.

Thursday, October 18
6:00-9:00 p.m.
Fringe Arts + La Peg
140 N. Columbus Boulevard
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Tickets are available for $160 per person. For sponsorship  and more information, see below or contact Michael Berton at  mberton@pubintlaw.org  or  267-546-1303. 

August 1 Deadline for Sponsor Inclusion on Invitation!
 
Illustration by Libby VanderPloeg
Now is your last chance to have your company's logo included in the invitation for our annual event. Sponsors who commit by the end of the day on Wednesday, August 1 will be featured in our print invitation, sent to over 3,000 recipients. 

Sponsors who come on board after this deadline can still be recognized in our program book, event signs, and other materials.
 
Sponsorships can be obtained at our online ticketing portal, or by contacting Michael Berton at 267-657-1303 or mberton@pubintlaw.org


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