Our new analysis shows that PA schools are $4.6 billion away from adequate funding. Find the numbers for your district. 

Our new map showing per-student funding shortfalls in each PA school district
Our new map showing per-student funding shortfalls in each PA school district
According to state law, 86% of students in Pennsylvania attend schools that don't have the resources to provide an education that gives all their students a shot at reaching state academic standards. This pervasive underfunding, revealed in a new analysis as part of our school funding lawsuit, was covered in a report from Spotlight PA and the Philadelphia Inquirer published on October 27. 

What does this mean for your school district? We plotted the per-student funding shortfall for each district in the state on a new interactive map as part of our new website for updates on the case, FundOurSchoolsPA.org. Check out your district, and help spread the word by sharing it with your neighbors. 

Though this underfunding is widespread, it is not evenly shared. Pennsylvania, heavily reliant on local wealth, spends $4,800 less per pupil on students in poor districts than on students in rich ones, and this gap continues to grow. Black and Latinx students are concentrated in the most underfunded districts, with 50% of Black students and 40% of Latinx students attending districts in the bottom 20% of local wealth. 

"Pennsylvania has an obligation to make sure that everybody has enough," said our attorney Michael Churchill, "to get a fair opportunity to graduate, to have a career and college choices, and be part of a healthy society."

We're challenging this unjust status quo in court with Education Law Center-PA, and trial is set for 2021. Learn more about how you can get involved in the fight for public education.
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Election Day: What you need to know 

Voting Booth 
The Pennsylvania Department of State recommends that voters, if possible, should not use the US Postal Service to return their ballot this close to Election Day. Instead, voters should deliver their ballots directly to election officials. Voters can do this by taking their ballot to their County election office or, in some counties, a satellite office or drop box. Find where you can return your ballot here
If you have requested a mail-in ballot, but have not yet received it, you can also visit a County election office to ask for a replacement. 
As always, you can choose to vote in person. Find your polling place here
If you have received a mail-in ballot, but have changed your mind and wish to vote in person, you must take that ballot to your polling place--including both envelopes--and sign a document attesting that you have not already voted. You have the right to do this, but election officials strongly encourage you not to do so, because the process can cause delays at the polling place. 
Deadlines for mail-in ballots
On September 17, 2020, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed to extend the deadline for county election offices to receive ballots from 8:00 PM on Election Day (November 3) until 5:00 PM on Friday, November 6, so long as the voter mail the ballot by 8:00 PM on Election Day. We filed an extensive amicus brief in the case along with other voting rights groups supporting this change to make voting easier during a global pandemic and unprecedented demand for mail-in ballots. 
However, political actors have asked the United States Supreme Court to hold that ruling unconstitutional. The Court decided that it wouldn't hear this case before Election Day. But there is a chance that the Court will decide the case after Election Day, and there is a chance the that Court will agree that the extension was unconstitutional. 
The bottom line is: don't count on an extension of the deadline. Make sure your ballot is received by 8 p.m. on Election Day. This means voters should deliver their ballot to their county election offices, satellite offices, or drop boxes. 
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Court dismisses Trump campaign attempt to block drop boxes, and more updates on our efforts to protect the vote. 

Voting by drop box
We are continuing our work to ensure that every voter can reach the ballot box and have their vote count. 

On October 10, Judge Ranjan of the Western District of Pennsylvania dismissed the Trump campaign's attempt to block the use of mail-in ballot drop boxes in Pennsylvania, in a detailed 130 page opinion, noting that the campaign provided no evidence of voter fraud. We represented the NAACP-PA, Common Cause PA, and the League of Women Voters of PA as defendants in the case, joined by co-counsel from ACLU, ACLU-PA, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and WilmerHale.

"The court recognized what Pennsylvania law, the experience of voters in other states, and the evidence in this case made clear: drop boxes are a safe and secure tool for voters to return their mail ballots to election officials," said our staff attorney Ben Geffen.

This case was just one of several efforts we have taken to protect our right to vote this year. We recently put together a page on our website summarizing our work. Check out the page here.

We fully expect-and demand-that our election will be free and equal. However, we remain alert to threats to our most essential civil right, including as part of the team staffing the 866-OUR-VOTE hotline for election protection launched by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. We have vigilantly fought to protect Pennsylvania voters' access to the ballot box, and to make sure that their votes are counted, challenging misinformation and attempts at voter suppression. And we will continue to do so.  

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We're in court to take on gun violence by challenging Pennsylvania's Firearm Preemption Law

Our Legal Director Mimi McKenzie speaks at a press conference announcing our challenge to firearm preemption laws
Our Legal Director Mimi McKenzie speaks at a press conference announcing our challenge to firearm preemption laws
With 327 fatal shootings so far this year, 2020 is the deadliest year for gun violence in Philadelphia since 2007. There are reasonable gun safety ordinances that local municipalities like Philadelphia  would enforce, and that public health research demonstrates would save lives. But the state Firearm Preemption Laws block local governments from passing or enforcing these ordinances. Moreover, Firearm Preemption Laws put certain communities at higher risk for gun violence, specifically low income communities of color. Public health and police data show that Black Pennsylvanians are 19 times more likely to die by gun homicide than white Pennsylvanians
On October 7, we joined the City of Philadelphia and pro bono counsel from Hogan Lovells to file a lawsuit in Commonwealth Court taking on Pennsylvania's Firearm Preemption Laws, representing the statewide organization CeaseFirePA and residents across the Commonwealth who have lost family members to gun violence. These laws have time and again blocked cities' attempts at promoting gun safety, be they a permit to purchase law or limits on gun purchases to one per month, and the General Assembly has refused to take action on the state level. In our Petition for Review, we assert that, by thwarting the ability of Pennsylvanians' affected by gun violence to address this danger through the law, the General Assembly has violated their fundamental rights to life and liberty under our state Constitution. The case was covered in media outlets across the state, including the Philadelphia Tribune
Statistics and research cannot convey the full reality of the toll that unchecked gun violence takes on communities. Stanley Crawford, one of the petitioners in this case, lost his son, William, when he was shot and killed on the front steps of his sister's home in broad daylight in 2018.
"Letting Philadelphia pass gun safety laws is about recognizing the humanity of people in this city who face gun violence," Mr. Crawford said. "Because right now, the lack of action and the lack of urgency is absolutely inhumane."
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Law Center in the News: Renters United Philadelphia member Dametria Sanders testifies in support of eviction moratorium

Renters United Philadelphia
Renters United Philadelphia at an action in early March
Right now, Philadelphia City Council's housing committee is considering bills to extend an eviction moratorium and other protections for renters as we continue to take on COVID-19 and winter approaches. Eviction court hearings are happening now, and when an order of the First Judicial District preventing lockouts expires on November 8, more than 2,000 families in Philadelphia could be evicted. Call City Council's housing committee and tell them to take action now.

Dametria Sanders, a member of Renters United / Inquilinxs en la Lucha Philadelphia (RUP), shared her experience of the hardship faced by thousands of Philadelphia tenants in a City Council hearing on October 27. She lost work as a school bus attendant and a caregiver for people with mental disabilities because of the pandemic. In April, her landlord posted a notice on her door that they planned to evict her when the courts re-opened, and in May the landlord told Dametria she had to leave by the end of June because they were not renewing her lease. RUP helped her negotiate a lease renewal, no rent increase, a payment plan for back rent, and cancellation of her late fees. 

"A lot of people are scared right now and they're scared to come forward to demand their rights," Ms. Sanders said. "Your home makes you feel at ease and comfortable and safe. It's not a home if you're constantly worried about being put out in the street." Read more in this report from the Philadelphia Inquirer
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Supporter Spotlight: Community Energy 

Community Energy
Without our generous supporters, our work would be impossible. This year, Community Energy inaugurated their community giving program with a $15,000 gift to the Law Center supporting our environmental justice work. We greatly appreciate this support to help communities stand up against disinvestment and environmental racism. 

"Since 1999, Community Energy has developed over 2,000 MW of wind and solar energy projects across the country," Director Amy Lobel said. "As a leader in the energy transition, our team goes beyond building reliable clean energy infrastructure - we positively impact communities and enhance environmental benefits. To further this commitment, in 2020 Community Energy committed to a financial contribution to a Greater Philadelphia serving organization dedicated to impactful environmental and social justice work. After considering dozens of organizations, CE chose the Public Interest Law Center as the recipient of our contribution. We were impressed by the Law Center's cumulative impact over its 50 year history, and its multi-pronged, community approach to the work that they do. We look forward to continuing to support each other's shared missions and transformative work." 
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We're looking for Summer 2021 interns!

The Public Interest Law Center
We are now accepting applications for Summer 2021 internships from law students, graduate students and undergraduates. 

Interns gain experience in civil rights law and learn the inner workings of one of Philadelphia's premier public interest firms. You'll become part of a close-knit group of attorneys, advocates, and others committed to social justice. Law Center attorneys and staff are committed to helping train the next generation of civil rights attorneys, advocates, and nonprofit leaders. Learn more and apply on our website.

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Welcome Mark Kasten to our Board of Directors! 

Mark Kasten
Mark Kasten
At their October meeting, our Board of Directors elected Mark Kasten. Mark is an associate at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC, specializing in investigations and white-collar litigation. In his pro-bono practice, he represents indigent criminal defendants and supports asylum seekers in immigration cases. Help us welcome him by liking his post on LinkedIn!
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