October 2019
New Report Release Coincides with Special Education Funding Hearings
In a report issued last fall, ‘Shortchanging Children with Disabilities,’ we warned that over an eight-year period, Pennsylvania’s financial support for special education had failed to keep pace with local needs. New data show that trend has continued.”

That is the message of a new report   issued this week by the Education Law Center and PA Schools Work campaign. It shows that the share of Pennsylvania special education costs covered by state aid has dwindled from nearly one-third a decade ago to 22% in 2017-18.

With the state legislature convening hearings of its special education funding commission around the state this month ( check our Twitter feed for dates and locations), our new report argues that the legislature shouldn’t limit its work to merely adjusting the formula used to divvy up state aid. It must also make an increased state investment in special education.
PUSHOUT Film Debuts at Pittsburgh Equity Summit
ELC was honored to join Dr. Monique Morris on stage after the first community screening of her new documentary, “ PUSHOUT: The Criminalization of Black Girls in School .” The film, based on her seminal book with the same name, debuted in Pittsburgh on Sept. 26 as part of the fourth annual Black Girls Equity Summit. ELC attorney Cheryl Kleiman participated in the panel discussion to highlight strategies for law and policy reforms that can advance education justice for Black girls in school. In noting that Pittsburgh was the first of 200+ planned community screenings of her film, Dr. Morris reminded the audience that Pittsburgh was also the first stop on her 2016 tour for her book PUSHOUT, an event co-hosted by the Education Law Center and A+ Schools.
ELC Celebrates Another Year of Fighting the Good Fight
We celebrated our 44th anniversary on Sept. 25 with a full house at the Crystal Tea Room in Philadelphia. Thank you to everyone who joined us as we honored education champions Opera Philadelphia; Bentley Systems, Incorporated; Jamilia Blake, Ph.D., and Rebecca Epstein, Esq.; and Jennifer Fox Rabold, Esq., and Susan Kernen of FedEx Ground. Your support helps us ensure that all children in Pennsylvania have access to quality public education. If you were not able to join us, there is still time to  support  our work!
ELC's Advocacy in Action
September was a busy month at ELC, as we handled many cases concerning school enrollment and classroom placement for the children we serve. We helped five siblings experiencing homelessness enter school with transportation and uniforms when they had previously been turned away from their school district. We advocated for a child, poised to begin his third year in kindergarten, to receive an expedited evaluation for special education services and begin school in 1st grade. An 11th grader had been told she would have to start over in 9th grade because she had attended three different high schools; we helped her receive a comprehensive credit assessment and begin her school year in 11th grade with the supplemental services she needs.

We also heard from former clients that their new school year is brighter because of ELC’s advocacy. For example, we represented a child in foster care in a due process proceeding who had been out of school for months because he lacked nursing services required by his IEP. This year, his court-appointed Educational Decision Maker reported that he has mastered more sign language and is able to use his voice to say some words for the first time, and that his IEP Team is increasing his goals and benchmarks because he is doing so well. He hasn’t missed any classes, has a wonderful nurse, and “loves being with the other kids!”
Black Women's Leadership Breakfast Talks Strategy
ELC convened a breakfast in our Philadelphia office on Sept. 26, bringing together Black women leaders who work with Black girls to launch a community-conversation about the disparate treatment that Black girls face in Philadelphia schools. We were joined by one of our annual event honorees, professor Jamilia Blake. Leaders discussed ways that Black girls can be better supported at school, as well as pressing barriers to educational equity. Importantly, this discussion centered on promising strategies that can transform schools into places where Black girls can thrive and the types of challenges that Black girls face at school because they are both Black and girls.
ELC Urges School District of Philadelphia to Revise Policies for Pregnant and Parenting Students
Highlighting our findings and recommendations from ELC’s recent report, Clearing the Path: Creating School Success for Pregnant and Parenting Students , Legal Director Maura McInerney testified before the District’s Board of Education Policy Committee, urging them to revise Policy 234 to ensure academic support to all students throughout the time they are on parenting leave from school and ensure a consistent point of contact in school; provide credit assessments and transition and graduation planning for pregnant and parenting students returning to the District; and provide pregnant and parenting students with academic accommodations (e.g., additional time to make up work) as well as other school accommodations (e.g., breastfeeding support). Read our testimony here . We were disappointed that the Board has declined to reconsider Policy 234 at this time, but ELC intends to continue to advocate for the necessary changes in school district practice.
Our Philly Office is Moving!
Effective Oct. 20 , ELC’s Philadelphia staff will have a new home, just a few blocks from our current office. We will again be sharing an office suite with Juvenile Law Center. Our new address will be 1800 JFK Boulevard, Suite 1900A, Philadelphia, PA 19103. Staff phone numbers and our email addresses all remain the same. In Pittsburgh, you can still find us at 429 Fourth Avenue, Suite 702, Pittsburgh, PA 15219.
ELC Welcomes Independence Foundation Public Interest Law Fellow Sophia Tan
Sophia Tan joined ELC’s Philadelphia staff in September as an Independence Foundation Public Interest Law Fellow. She will provide representation of students and families and training for parents and community partners, and she will advocate for the educational rights of students and families who do not speak English as a native language. Sophia earned a law degree in 2019 from the Duke University School of Law and a master’s in public policy from the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke. Prior to studying at Duke, Sophia worked in Philadelphia as an office manager at a bilingual preschool and a grant writer in an education nonprofit supporting underserved students and families. Welcome, Sophia!
Latasha Harling Joins ELC Board
We are thrilled to welcome Latasha Harling to ELC’s board of directors. Latasha is currently the director of HR operations & employee relations at Inglis Inc., the largest provider of affordable, accessible housing for people with disabilities. She has a focused attention on women and minorities, specifically those with disabilities in the workforce, and lends her talents to further equity initiatives throughout Philadelphia for those cohort groups.
Help Wanted!
If you are an experienced litigator looking to ensure all children in Pennsylvania have access to quality public education, we have an opening for a staff attorney in our Philadelphia office.  Learn more here !
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A copy of the official registration and financial information of the Education Law Center may be obtained from the Department of State by calling toll-free, within Pennsylvania, 1-880-732-0999. Registration does not imply endorsement.