PA-BGT: State Sued Over School Funding

schoolbooksAfter waiting six months to receive their first paycheck of the 2015-16 fiscal year, PA schools are not looking to wait for the next round of vital payments from the state.

The Pennsylvania School Boards Association filed a lawsuit in Commonwealth Court on Friday seeking damages for interest accrued on almost $1 billion in loans taken out by school districts since July 1, Mary Wilson of State House Sound Bites reports.

The PSBA’s suit claims its members’ rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment have been violated by the state, which didn’t release any school funding from July 1st to Jan. 5th but has paid other state government employees throughout the 195-day budget impasse.

The suit also argues the state violated federal law by withholding federal funding in Harrisburg.

Last week, the state’s 500 school districts began receiving over 16,000 payments they were due to receive over the first six months of the fiscal year.

The deluge of emergency funding for schools, counties and service providers prompted Gov. Tom Wolf to take out a $2 billion line-of-credit from the state Treasury to cover the spending.

“This is not a House versus Senate issue, nor a Republican versus Democrat issue. What we are witnessing is a complete failure of our state government to fulfill its constitutional duty to ensure that the education of our children is not interrupted,” PSBA Executive Director Nathan Mains said in a statement Friday. “We are hopeful that the court will be able to step in and provide a remedy so that Pennsylvania school districts and the children they serve are not made to suffer any further.”

Meanwhile, Wolf is calling on GOP legislators to get back to work to finalize a budget.

“Gov. Wolf has been fighting for historic increases in education funding at all levels since day one, but unfortunately Republican leaders have stood in the way,” Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan told Christen Smith of Capitolwire. “Republican leaders would rather continue the failed status quo that resulted in devastating cuts to school districts that led to massive educator layoffs, increased class sizes and soaring property taxes.”

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