November 2020
Most PA Students Face Profound Funding Shortfalls, Our New Analysis Shows 
Schools are inadequately funded in the vast majority of the state’s school districts, affecting nearly 1.5 million students (86% of the state’s schoolchildren), with schools statewide facing a total shortfall of $4.6 billion. That’s the finding of a new analysis we submitted as part of our lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state’s funding system and was highlighted in an October 27 article by Spotlight PA and the Inquirer. The article ran in more than a dozen news outlets across the state.

The adequacy calculations are based on a provision written into state law in 2008 that officials have ignored, allowing disparities between districts to grow.

“The gross disparities in school funding disproportionately harm Black and Latinx students and their communities,” said Maura McInerney, ELC’s legal director, in a press statement. “Those communities are trying harder than anyone else to raise revenues, but they still end up with less because we have a broken state funding system. It’s time to fix this with substantial new state investments over time to close the gaps.”

Our work on the fair funding lawsuit with the Public Interest Law Center is moving forward, with a trial now anticipated for early 2021.
Call to Action: Pass a Federal Aid Package
With schools across the state grappling with the ravages of COVID-19 and challenges of remote learning, the need for additional education funding should be clear. But Congress and the president have failed to work out a deal for federal funding. ELC partnered with PCCY and others in an October 29 rally on Zoom to turn up the heat on elected officials from Pennsylvania. Ruby Resendiz, a high school junior from the ACLAMO youth program, said it well: “Whether you are a kid or an adult, we’re all struggling right now. We need our elected leaders to step up and support our families and our schools.” Take a few minutes to join the letter-writing campaign to Washington and Harrisburg to “put kids first!”
It's Election Eve!
There are countless reasons to vote on Tuesday if you haven’t already. Education is effectively on the ballot. In races from the presidency to local ballot measures, this is a defining moment one of our best chances to impact policy and ensure that those in positions of power are committed to high-quality, equitable public education for all students.

If you have not returned your ballot yet, note that the Pennsylvania Department of State advises voters to deliver their ballots directly to their county election office or other county drop off location or drop box, rather than using the mail. Find out how to return your ballot here. If you are voting in person, you can find your polling place here. The Education Law Center will be closed for Election Day to support our staff in exercising their civic right.
Speak Out Against Police Violence
We are mourning after another police killing. Walter Wallace Jr. was a 27-year-old Black man experiencing a mental health crisis, shot down in front of his mother and neighbors in Philadelphia. The need for new approaches to community safety could not be clearer. Read our statement
We encourage you to take action. Convey your condolences and donate to the Go Fund Me campaign for the Wallace family. Join with organizations that are supporting actions to address anti-Black racism, police violence, and the need for increased mental health services. 
Bill Would Redirect Federal Funds away from School Policing to Student Supports
After decades of expanded police involvement in schools, movements led by Black and Brown students have been challenging the discriminatory, oppressive presence of school policing. Nationwide, many schools and districts have started to divest from school police officers. On the federal level, a newly introduced Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act would shift federal resources away from policing and toward research-based student supports. Read the statement in support of this bill, which ELC joined 120 organizations in signing last week.
Credit Overdue: Addressing Credit Transfer Issues in Juvenile Justice System
We released a national report Credit Overdue: How States Can Mitigate Academic Credit Transfer Problems for Youth in the Juvenile Justice System along with Juvenile Law Center and Southern Poverty Law Center, highlighting the educational experiences of tens of thousands of youth who struggle to earn credits while in juvenile justice facilities. While these facilities provide classes to prevent young people from falling behind in their school­work, many discover when they return to school that they will not receive full academic credit for their completed coursework, there is no record of their credits, or their credits will not count toward graduation. The lack of attention to ensuring that credits are awarded for coursework has serious educational and emotional consequences that put graduation and opportunity further out of reach.

The report makes recommendations for state legislation to address this important issue, which ELC and JLC have been working on for several years in Pennsylvania. Its findings reinforce the need for our state legislators to move forward with S.B. 662, introduced in 2019 by Sen. Browne, and H.B. 1956, introduced by Rep. Toohil, in March. These bills establish a new process for students impacted by “educational disruptions” to receive credits for coursework completed – ensuring that credits count towards graduation and providing critical support to students upon reentry to their home school. 

Read our news release, the full report, a fact sheet with highlights, and this video.
Helpline Team Intervenes to Prevent
 Exclusion from Preschool
ELC's Helpline continues to provide timely, individualized assistance to ensure that children have equal access to quality public education. In response to a recent call, ELC intervened to reinstate a preschool student, “Bryan,” at his school after he was excluded due to his disability. The parent contacted ELC after Bryan’s preschool informed her that he could not attend school while his one-on-one aide was on temporary medical leave. While the aide was a support to address the student's special education needs, it was clearly discriminatory for the preschool to exclude Bryan due to the aide’s absence.

ELC made sure the preschool understood its responsibilities under disability law, including reinstating Bryan in school, while advocating for the preschool early intervention agency to provide a substitute aide immediately. Bryan was quickly placed back in school, and the preschool has confirmed that he will not be excluded in the future. ELC is working with other agency and organizational partners to ensure that an effective complaint system is in place to address such issues for all young learners. 
All Pennsylvania early learning programs are required to develop program specific policies to reduce the suspension and expulsion of young children from their programs. Learn more about Pennsylvania’s Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) guidelines here. 
Equity Summit Discusses Strategies to Address Racism in Schools
ELC staff attorney Paige Joki was a panelist speaking on “Building an Antiracist Movement in Schools and Communities” at the annual Equity Summit of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association on Oct. 13. Paige addressed how current and historic inequities caused by white supremacy show up at school, the importance of implementing affirming school policies, and other ways that schools can support Black and Brown members of school communities. She highlighted recent ELC publications on the right to be free from racial discrimination at school and on ensuring equity for students engaged in online learning
 
Americans with Disabilities Act Celebration Notes ELC Advocacy on Alternative Education
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania hosted a virtual roundtable on Oct. 29 in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The presentation highlighted ELC’s complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) challenging the state’s use of “Alternative Education for Disruptive Youth” (AEDY) programs as disproportionately impacting students of color and students with disabilities. The resulting settlement agreement between DOJ and the Pennsylvania Department of Education overhauled the state’s system for approving alternative education programs and resulted in significant changes to the way students with disabilities (those eligible for special education services or accommodations under Section 504) are referred to, placed, and treated in such programs. ELC provides fact sheets about rights of students facing placement in AEDY programs.
We Welcome New Law Fellows
 in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh
Ashli Giles-Perkins joined ELC’s Philadelphia office in October as an Independence Foundation Public Interest Law Fellow. Ashli’s work centers on addressing the significant educational injustices for youth involved in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems in the Philadelphia area who are placed in residential facilities. Ashli provides representation of students and families, trainings for families and communities, and outreach to stakeholders to ensure oversight, accountability, and access to quality education for system-involved youth.  

Ashli received a J.D., from Loyola University Chicago School of Law with a certificate in child & family law, as well as an M.Ed. in cultural educational policy studies from Loyola Chicago’s School of Education, in 2020. 

Originally from Bridgeport, Conn., Ashli attended the University of New Haven, earning a dual degree in criminal justice and psychology. She has worked as a community organizer and education equity activist. Ashli’s background has positioned her to begin breaking down systemic barriers that face system-involved youth.
Essence Kimes joins ELC’s Pittsburgh office as an Equal Justice Works fellow, sponsored by PNC Bank and McGuireWoods. Through direct representation and community-driven policy advocacy, Essence will work to ensure that Black girls in Pennsylvania have less interaction with police in schools and more mental health support from culturally affirming counselors and caring professionals.
 
Essence is a 2020 graduate of University of Pittsburgh School of Law, where she led the Black Law Students Association and was a member of the Prisoner Legal Support Project, Outlaw, and the Pitt Law Women’s Association. Essence also interned with KidsVoice, the Pennsylvania Innocence Project and the Education Law Center! 
 
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Essence is a graduate of Pittsburgh Public Schools and the University of Pittsburgh, where she studied administrative justice. Essence was inspired to do this work after growing up as a Black woman in Pittsburgh and seeing first-hand the need for change. 

We're Hiring a Policy Director
ELC seeks an experienced professional for a full-time policy advocacy position in our Philadelphia office. The candidate should have a demonstrated commitment to public interest law, racial justice, civil rights, and advancing the rights of underserved populations. Please click here to learn more about the position.
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