Citing a growing body of rigorous research, Education Law Center, together with 20 education advocacy and child welfare organizations, have made a powerful plea for increasing state investment in the education of students in Pennsylvania’s high poverty school districts.

The urgent call for school funding reform is the subject of an amicus, or “friend-of-the-court,” brief filed by the organizations with Commonwealth Court Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer on May 16 at the close of the historic trial challenging severe and chronic underfunding of public schools across the state.

The lawsuit, William Penn School District v. Pennsylvania Department of Education, was filed by six, low-wealth school districts, along with parents, students, and the Pennsylvania State Conference of the NAACP. The main issue in the lawsuit is the gross disparities in funding and resources between affluent and high poverty school districts, resulting in a violation of the rights of Pennsylvania’s “at-risk” students to a “thorough and efficient” education guaranteed under the State Constitution.

On Education Law Center’s latest national report on school funding, Making the Grade: How Fair is School Funding in Your State?, Pennsylvania receives an “F” on the distribution of funding relative to student poverty. As the report notes, “the hallmark of a fair school funding system is that it delivers more funding to educate students in high-poverty districts.”

The advocates’ amicus brief highlights research showing that investments in targeted programs, services, and interventions for at-risk students and students of color are strongly associated with improved academic outcomes and school success. These strategic investments include high quality preschool, reduced class sizes, and social supports such as guidance counselors, nurses and social workers.

“This amicus brief soundly debunks the ‘money doesn’t matter’ defense invoked by the Pennsylvania Legislature to defend its refusal to equitably and adequately fund the state’s public schools, especially those segregated by poverty and race,” said David Sciarra, ELC Executive Director and a leading expert on litigating education rights cases.

Many of the organizations that signed onto the amicus brief work in Pennsylvania’s high poverty districts and have firsthand experience with the impact of underfunding on at-risk student populations. The organizations urge the Court to seize this “historic opportunity to reverse course and positively impact generations of Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable students by compelling the General Assembly to provide funding adequate to ensure that underserved students can reach their full potential as contributing members to the Commonwealth and their communities.”

The amicus brief was prepared and filed pro bono by the law firm Jones Day and ELC attorneys. Across the nation, Education Law Center actively litigates for education equity and justice and supports lawyers and law firms working to defend and advance the legal right of students to the public education guaranteed them under their state constitutions.

The plaintiffs in William Penn School District v. Pennsylvania Department of Education are represented by the Public Interest Law Center, Education Law Center-PA, and the law firm O’Melveny & Myers LLP pro bono.

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Press Contact:

Sharon Krengel
Policy and Outreach Director
973-624-1815, x 24

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Press Contact:
Sharon Krengel
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications
973-624-1815, x240