School Funding Lawsuit Will Proceed, Commonwealth Court Rules
Attorneys, plaintiffs and supporters of the lawsuit after oral argument
On May 7, in a victory for students across Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth Court  overruled various preliminary objections  to Pennsylvania's landmark school funding lawsuit. The ruling was an important step to ensure that the case  will move forward towards a full trial. We, along with the Education Law Center, filed the suit in 2014 on behalf of six school districts and six families, in response to the failure of the state legislature to equitably and adequately fund education. This failure denies Pennsylvania students their right to a "thorough and efficient" public education, as guaranteed in the state constitution. 

In the next stage of the case, we will address two remaining arguments put forward by legislative leaders before students can have their day in court. First, we must provide evidence and briefing about what standard of review the court should apply in deciding the equal protection claim; namely, should the court ask only whether the legislature has a rational basis for its funding scheme or, as we argue, should the court apply a higher standard because education is either a fundamental right or important governmental interest.  Second, Senator Scarnati continues to assert that the entire case is moot,  arguing--in the face of all evidence to the contrary--that  the funding formula adopted in 2016 has fixed Pennsylvania's chronic school funding problem. In the next few months, we are looking forward to proving that education is a fundamental right and that Pennsylvania's support for public schools remains far from adequate. Find out more about you can get involved in the fight for fair school funding here

Free Briefing: Public Education Funding in Pennsylvania
Students protest for fair school funding
On June 13, join Law Center attorneys Michael Churchill, Jennifer Clarke, and Dan Urevick-Ackelsberg for a free briefing on the state of education funding in Pennsylvania. 

Wednesday, June 13
8:30-10:00 a.m.
1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia, PA 19103

They'll cover the basics of education fundin g,  our fair school funding lawsuit , the property tax elimination bill, the 2018-2019 state budget, and more! A light breakfast will be served.  RSVP online here,  or contact William Burstein at  or 267-546-1317. 

Analysis: Pennsylvania Needs to Do More to Prepare Students with Disabilities for Employment

I n May 2016, the Pennsylvania Legislature passed the Work Experience for High School Students with Disabilities Act, also known as Act 26. The purpose of the law is to increase the number of students with disabilities who are able to obtain Competitive Integrated Employment (CIE) during and after high school, which means they are earning at least minimum wage and working alongside non-disabled peers. To achieve this goal, the Act requires the state Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) to collaborate with school districts to provide services that help students with disabilities ages 14-21 meaningfully prepare for life after high school, and to release reports four times per year on the results of these efforts on a county by county basis

Darlene Hemerka, our Equal Justice Works Fellow, sponsored by Greenberg Traurig, LLP, analyzed the first three reports  published by OVR. Though the collection of this information by county is a positive step forward, her analysis uncovered several troubling findings. First, the number of students helped by OVR is quite small by all the metrics reported. For example, of the 18,231 Pennsylvania students enrolled in special education who graduated or aged out of high school in 2017, only 19 had obtained competitive integrated employment within three months of graduation--less than one percent. Second, the reports lack critical information and context, such as the number of students eligible for OVR transition services in each county. Stakeholders need this information to draw informed conclusions from the data. Darlene also appeared on Aaron Freiwald's  Good Law | Bad Law podcast  to discuss Act 26 and other laws that are designed to help students with disabilities successfully transition to life after high school. 

Philadelphia Agencies Transfer Land to Community Garden
Staff attorney Ebony Griffin with the stewards of New Jerusalem
On May 8, the city's Vacant Properties Review Committee recommended that the city transfer the ownership of five parcels of land to New Jerusalem, an addiction recovery center and community garden in North Philadelphia. Our  Garden Justice Legal Initiative, which has represented New Jerusalem since 2016, worked with the Philadelphia Land Bank to facilitate the transfer. The transfer will be finalized with City Council's approval. Run by non-denominational nuns, New Jerusalem has been a welcoming space for the community and people in recovery since the 1980s. 

Gardens across the city are still facing intense pressure from development and gentrification. We hope this action by the city and the Land Bank is an indication of their renewed commitment to protect community gardens, urban farms, and open space.

Welcome Our New Staff Attorney, Claudia De Palma!
Claudia De Palma
We are thrilled to welcome Claudia De Palma to the Law Center as our new staff attorney! Claudia will be focusing her practice on employment and special education. She has a broad and varied background in civil litigation, previously working as a litigation associate at Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller. Before moving to Philadelphia, Claudia spent several years working on civil rights issues in New York City. She  graduated  cum laude  from Yale University with a B.A. in American Studies and received her J.D.  cum laude  from the NYU School of Law. Help us welcome her by liking her post on Facebook!

Save the Date: Voting is Our Superpower--2018 Annual Celebration
Illustrations by Libby Vander Ploeg

On October 18, join us for our annual celebration of our mission. As we remember that Voting is Our Superpower, help us honor Arnold & Porter, the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and our 18 redistricting lawsuit clients for their role in our historic victory against partisan gerrymandering with the Thaddeus Stevens awards.  

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 tickets, sponsorships or more information, contact Michael Berton at  or  267-546-1303.