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School Funding Lawsuit Oral Argument Recap

On March 11, together with the Education Law Center and O’Melveny & Myers LLP, we presented oral argument in our school funding lawsuit.

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March 11 – Legal team answers press questions following oral argument

Both sides argued before an en banc panel of seven Commonwealth Court judges. We asked the court to hear the merits of our case and permit us to show in a trial the devastating impact the state’s failure to provide a “thorough and efficient system of public education” is having on hundreds of thousands of kids across the Commonwealth.

Some members of the court appeared troubled by the failure of students to meet graduation standards set out by the legislature. In reply, attorneys for the state argued that this case cannot be decided by a court but is instead a matter to be decided in the political arena by the legislature. The state further argued that if schools have enough money to open and turn the lights on, the state has done its job to provide a “thorough and efficient system of public education.” Brad Elias, pro bono counsel from O’Melveny & Myers LLP, argued on behalf of our clients that just opening schools is not enough for students to be able to meet the academic standards the legislature has adopted and now require for graduation.

We do not know when the court will issue its decision. It could be months. Either side is expected to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

We knew when we brought this case that it would take time to wind through the judicial process. But we also know that our students cannot wait any longer.  And that’s where you come in. It is important to keep the pressure on elected officials. Legislators need to hear from residents every day that the school funding system needs to be fixed now – not in a year.

Although Governor Wolf’s budget proposal recommends some relief, we do not know how it will change as it moves through the legislative process and it is a short-term proposal, not the long-term guarantee our children need.

Please take a moment in the next few days to call your legislators. Tell them that you support the goals of our lawsuit and want a full, fair school funding formula that provides all students the resources they need.

You can borrow from a statement made by Joseph Bruni, superintendent of the William Penn School District, one of the six petitioner districts in this case: “Our legislators need to know that they will be held accountable to ensure all of Pennsylvania’s children, regardless of where they live or the color of their skin, have access to a thorough and efficient system of public education as mandated by our state’s constitution.”

Click here to find contact information for your legislators. Let us know you have called by emailing Barb at bgrimaldi@pilcop.org. These calls do matter as they are counted and tracked by legislative staff.

Click here for more information on this case including case documents and a short video.

 

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