With our help, the Wynnefield Residents Association establishes a Community Benefits Agreement with PECO 

Wynnefield welcome sign 
On November 19, the Wynnefield Residents Association (WRA) ratified a new Community Benefits Agreement with PECO, which is building a new electric substation in their neighborhood. The agreement provides annual grants for community organizations, job-training programs for local residents, and continued landscaping and maintenance of the area surrounding the substation. Staff attorney Ebony Griffin represented WRA in negotiations with PECO, which began in April of 2018. 
WRA and other residents of Wynnefield only found out about the substation project by happenstance, as the zoning code did not require PECO to hold meetings or post notices in the community in relation to the project. WRA quickly organized to determine the concerns of neighbors related to this major industrial development. The Community Benefits process has allowed this Philadelphia community to have a voice in determining the environmental and economic impact that development will have on their neighborhood. This input and self-determination, which has so often been denied to communities of color like Wynnefield, is crucial to environmental justice.   Read a summary of the Community Benefits agreement here
Join us December 3 for Giving Tuesday!
Save the Date_ December 3_ Giving Tuesday 
The Law Center is participating in #GivingTuesday, a global giving movement that has been built by individuals, families, organizations, and businesses around the world.  Giving Tuesday falls each year on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, which this year is December 3, 2019.

We hope we can count on your support. For 50 years, we have used the law to make sure that people facing discrimination and poverty can obtain the fundamental resources they need to build their lives, resources like a quality public education. We are currently preparing for a trial set for next year in a lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania's school funding system, which skews the resources schools receive based on local wealth. In support of this lawsuit, the first $25,000 raised on Tuesday will be matched dollar-for-dollar by an anonymous donor
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Thanks for coming to our Voting Rights Celebration!
cocktail party photo
Ben Geffen speaking
Cocktail party photo
Bluegrass band

Thank you so much to everyone who attended our Voting Rights Celebration on November 6! This cocktail party was the final installment in a series of events throughout the year celebrating the 50th anniversary of our founding in 1969. Check out some photos from the earlier events in the series, and stay tuned for more events coming up in 2020!

Girl with duckling
By the fire
Yards networking event
Philadelphia City Council passes a Right to Counsel for tenants in eviction court

Our former client Curtis Shiver testifies in favor of Right to Counsel
Law Center staff after a City Council hearing on Right to Counsel. Left to right_ Mary Beth Schluckebier_ Ariel Morales_ George Donnelly
Law Center staff after a City Council hearing on Right to Counsel. Left to right: Mary Beth Schluckebier, Ariel Morales, George Donnelly
On November 14, the Philadelphia City Council unanimously passed a bill that will provide a Right to Counsel for low-income tenants in eviction court. Right now, only 11 percent of renters in eviction court have an attorney to advocate for their interests--compared to more than 80 percent of their landlords. This bill will help balance the scales, and will safeguard against retaliatory evictions and other abuses against tenants who assert their rights to a safe and healthy place to live. This bill will also drastically cut down on disruptive displacements, which heavily contribute to homelessness and housing instability. One study from the Philadelphia Bar Association found that tenants with attorneys were disruptively displaced from their homes in only 5 percent of cases, compared to 78 percent of tenants without lawyers. 

We are proud to have been part of the coalition of dozens of organizations across Philadelphia, such as Community Legal Services, the Philadelphia Tenants Union, the Philadelphia Bar Association, Project HOME, and many other groups who advocated for this important reform. Curtis Shiver, a former client, testified in favor of the bill in City Council-- read Mr. Shiver's testimony here. Our former client Gerrell Sampson also spoke about her experience of the power imbalance in eviction court in a story in the Philadelphia Citizen.  "It just felt like my landlord had all the power," Ms. Sampson said. "'Cause here he was, feeling like he could throw me out because I'd asserted my rights. ...Then you go in the courtroom, and you recognize all these people in suits must be attorneys, and none of them is there for you." 
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Our 2018-19 analysis: too few students with disabilities are being prepared for the workforce

The Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR), the state agency responsible for providing services to students with disabilities to prepare them for the workforce, has published its final report for the 2018-2019 school year. The data indicates that the number Pennsylvania students with disabilities who are being prepared to move from high school to competitive integrated employment remains unacceptably low. 

Of particular concern, OVR reported that only 36 students statewide entered competitive integrated employment--earning at least minimum wage alongside their non-disabled peers--within three months of graduation. The agency also served less than five percent of eligible students statewide in all categories, including job coaching and job referrals. Read our analysis here

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An update on HB 1800: New private school voucher program stopped, for now.

Vouchers rob public schools 
Good news in Harrisburg! A bill introduced by Pennsylvania Speaker of the House Mike Turzai that would have offered vouchers for private and religious school tuition to students in the Harrisburg School District will not be voted on this session. Your calls and emails made a difference! This bill would have allowed taxpayer funding to go to schools without taxpayer oversight, and nothing in the bill would have changed the fact that private schools can refuse to admit students, including those with special needs. 
This bill would be a "pilot program" for vouchers--as written, it provided a pathway to establish voucher programs in 12 other school districts in Pennsylvania. Read more about why we opposed the bill here. We will keep you updated on the status of this new voucher experiment. Though it will not be voted on this year, it could be reintroduced in the future.
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