Save the Date: Trial in our case challenging Pennsylvania's school funding system will begin on September 9, 2021
It's official: trial in our historic case taking on the General Assembly's system for funding schools will begin on September 9, 2021, in Courtroom 3002 of the Pennsylvania Judicial Center in Harrisburg. This date was confirmed in a June 22 scheduling order from Commonwealth Court Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer, who will continue to preside over the case at trial. We expect that trial will last for several weeks, and a livestream will be available to the public. Learn more.

For too long, the General Assembly has failed to provide enough state funding to support high-quality public education in all school districts, regardless of local wealth. It's time to believe in the potential of every kid in Pennsylvania public schools.

Check out our Twitter thread announcing the trial date and sharing key facts about the case, plus ways to get involved.
Our statement on the 2021-2022 PA state budget
This year, Pennsylvania had a budget surplus of $3 billion and a package of uncommitted federal aid of more than $7 billion, and yet the legislature has responded with only a modest increase to the state’s basic education funding formula – $200 million – for the state’s 500 school districts, plus a $100 million supplement for the 100 districts that are the most underfunded. This funding, following a year of no increase, does not keep up with inflation. The state has missed a historic opportunity to make a substantial impact on the lives of Pennsylvania students.

The budget does include for the first time an additional Level Up or equity supplement directed at the state’s 100 most severely underfunded school districts. By approving this supplement the state legislature has finally acknowledged the widening gaps between the haves and have-nots in Pennsylvania public education, and the profound shortchanging of students that remains the norm in the state’s lowest-wealth school districts. But the Level Up allocation is only as good as the money put through it--and these 100 districts are still a billion dollars short of receiving what the state's own formulas say is their fair share.

"The General Assembly has always had the power, and the constitutional responsibility, to fund schools so that students in every community can prepare for life after graduation,” said our attorney Michael Churchill. “They have failed to live up to this responsibility, and in September, they will face up to this failure in court.” Read our full joint statement with the Education Law Center-PA on our website.
Bids to covert public schools to charters rejected in Chester SD
Good news for public education! On June 29, Chester Upland School District receiver Juan Baughn announced at a public meeting that he has rejected all proposals from charter operators to take over management of public schools in Chester as part of the district's financial recovery plan. For more than 18 months, we have represented parents and the Delaware County Advocacy and Resource Organization, who have stood up for academic quality and a thorough consideration of the future of the district during a fast-tracked RFP process initiated by the district's largest charter school.

This decision was the only right one. It is clear that none of the three bidders--Friendship Education Foundation, Global Leadership Academy, and Chester Community Charter School--had a real plan to improve the education of Chester students, and the entire RFP process was marked by a lack of transparency. The voice of parents, teachers, and community members made a difference.

“This process, and the way it plays out, is important, beyond Chester, because it’s the guardrails for ensuring that once a school district is in receivership, that district is making decisions in a way that is going to actually get them out of financial recovery. And making sure that what they’re providing students is a good education,” our staff attorney Claudia De Palma said.

The decision was covered in WHYY, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Delaware County Daily Times.
New Episode of Underfunded: A brief history of underfunding, 1840-2001
Our General Assembly's inadequate and unequal school funding system will be on trial for the first time this fall. Want to learn more about how we got here? Check out Episode 4 of Underfunded! In the latest episode, our hosts explore the history of school funding from the start of public schooling through the turn of the 21st Century, hearing from legislators, historians, and journalists.

Law Center in the News: Oral argument in our case against state firearm preemption
Amid rising gun violence, the Pennsylvania General Assembly has handcuffed local governments with firearm preemption laws that prevent them from enacting or enforcing most local gun safety policies that save lives. In October 2020, we challenged those preemption laws in Commonwealth Court, joining the City of Philadelphia and representing family members of gun violence victims from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, along with CeaseFirePA. On June 9, an en banc panel in Commonwealth Court heard oral argument on preliminary objections from legislative leaders and the Commonwealth, who sought to dismiss the case. Alexander Bowerman, a senior associate at pro bono counsel Hogan Lovells, argued the case for the petitioners.

Philly Metro covered the argument. "Bowerman said the inability of Philadelphia and Allegheny County to pass their own gun regulations strips freedom away from residents and has a disproportionate impact on a subgroup of the population.

Black Pennsylvanians are 19 times more likely to be killed by gunfire, and residents of the city’s poorest neighborhoods are 25 times more likely to be the victim of a fatal shooting compared to those living in wealthier areas, according to Bowerman."

Read more in Metro or additional coverage in WHYY. This work is an initiative of the Richard Berkman & Toni Seidl Health Care Justice Project.
We're seeking to sponsor post-graduate public interest fellowship candidates
We are seeking applications for candidates for post-graduate public interest fellowships to be sponsored by the Law Center that would start in the fall of 2022. We are accepting fellowship applications through midnight on July 9, 2021 and will start interviews the week of July 12, 2021. We will consider a strong proposal in any of our six areas: Education (including Special Education), Employment, Environmental Justice, Health Care, Housing, and Voting. While candidates are welcomed to provide ideas for a project, a candidate need not have a developed proposal to be considered. Under any circumstance, we will work with the fellow to finalize a project.

We will sponsor one fellow in 2022 through a fellowship provided by organizations such as the Skadden Fellowship Foundation, the Independence Foundation, Equal Justice Works, Open Society Institute, and sponsoring law schools. Learn more.