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Lawyers: School Funding Decision Final: “No Excuse To Delay Action Any Further”

Philadelphia public schools classroom

“The ruling on the field stands.”

The deadline to appeal Commonwealth Court’s decision finding that Pennsylvania’s public school funding system violates the state constitution to the PA Supreme Court has come and gone, leaving the final work in the hands of state lawmakers.

House Minority Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) and Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) opted not to challenge the Court’s decision by the July 21 deadline.

In a lengthy 786-page order, President Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer found the state’s public school funding system to be unconstitutional back on February 7.

Her ruling stated that the General Assembly has not fulfilled its legal mandate nor “fulfilled its obligations to all children under the Education Clause. Students who reside in school districts with low property values and incomes are deprived of the same opportunities and resources as students who reside in school districts with high property values and incomes.”

The Public Interest Law Center and the Education Law Center, which represented the plaintiffs, argued in a November 2014 lawsuit that Pennsylvania’s system of paying for public schools is failing the poorest districts and lawyers for the plaintiffs contend that billions more dollars are necessary to meet the state’s constitutional obligation.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which included six school districts – William Penn School DistrictPanther Valley School DistrictThe School District of LancasterGreater Johnstown School DistrictWilkes-Barre Area School District; and Shenandoah Valley School District – the NAACP and the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools, presented evidence at trial that state schools are underfunded by $4.6 billion, an estimate they said does not account for spending on special education and school buildings.

Jubelirer wrote in her ruling that, “The disparity among school districts with high property values and incomes and school districts with low property values and incomes is not justified by any compelling government interest nor is it rationally related to any legitimate government objective.”

However, she did not direct the Legislature on how much aid to distribute, or how, or give a deadline.

“It is time for our leaders in Harrisburg to work together to comply with the court’s ruling and fulfill their duty to deliver that constitutional system of public education,” said the plaintiffs’ lawyers — from the Public Interest Law Center, the Education Law Center and the law firm of O’Melvenysaid in a statement.

“We look forward to building a public school funding system that eliminates longstanding, grave inequities and provides sufficient funding to meet the needs of all students regardless of their communities’ wealth, giving every public school student a meaningful opportunity to succeed. Our schoolchildren cannot wait any longer.”

One Response

  1. Question for MAGA: Will the school funding process include funds for free guns for teachers to wear in the classroom?


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