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Briefs Filed, Oral Argument Scheduled in School Funding Lawsuit

Join us in Harrisburg on March 11th for oral argument in our School Funding Lawsuit.

Together with the Education Law Center and O’Melveny & Myers, LLP, we are challenging the failure of legislative leaders, state education officials, and Pennsylvania’s Governor to uphold their constitutional obligation to provide a “thorough and efficient system of public education.” State officials filed preliminary objections asking the court to dismiss the case without a trial on the grounds that courts should not decide claims that a lack of school funding violates the state Constitution. On February 17, we filed a brief in response to the state’s preliminary objections in the case. Click here to read the brief in full. This brief marks our final brief in the first stage of this case.

Amicus, or “friend of the court,” briefs have also been filed. Click here to read the first such brief, submitted by the Consortium for Public Education, Parents United for Public Education, P.O.W.E.R., Youth United for Change, the Philadelphia Student Union, the PA Immigration and Citizenship Coalition, and Parent Education and Advocacy Leadership Center. Click here and head to “Case Documents” to read the other three briefs.

The state’s argument is the same one used in a previous funding case tried in the late 1990s. In that case, the court ruled that it could not address problems with school funding because, at that time, it did not have any manageable standards by which it could measure what students needed to learn and whether they were meeting those standards. Since the 1999 ruling, the situation has changed substantially. The state adopted strict academic standards, including the PSSAs for grades 3 through 11, and the newly-implemented Keystone graduation exams. In addition, in the vast majority of states, from Rhode Island to Kansas to South Carolina, courts have found constitutional challenges to school funding are justiciable.

The state also argues that differences in funding levels in different areas of the state are simply a part of our free-market economy and cannot be stopped, leaving students in more impoverished areas inevitably to suffer. To the contrary, our response brief demonstrates that the state Constitution was designed to protect all students from the whims of the economy: “But that is precisely what the framers sought to prevent by enshrining the right to a “thorough and efficient system of public education” in the Pennsylvania Constitution. Through this clause they declared that public education is not a product that can be left to the whims of the free market, nor are Pennsylvania’s children mere consumers who can be deprived of basic educational necessities based solely on the happenstance of their zip code. Public education is the cornerstone of our society, and it must be treated as such.”

It is important for the Court to see that there is wide, public support for the goal of this lawsuit–full, fair funding for public education. As such, we invite YOU the public to join us in the court room for oral argument in this case on March 11th at 9:30 a.m.

Oral Argument in School Funding Lawsuit
Wednesday, March 11, 9:30 a.m.
Pennsylvania Judicial Center
601 Commonwealth Avenue
Courtroom 5001
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania  

If you plan to attend or have questions, contact Barb Grimaldi at bgrimaldi@pilcop.org. The courtroom is just a few blocks from the Harrisburg Amtrak station.

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