Seven statewide groups concerned with the growing education gap for Pennsylvania schoolchildren are urging the Commonwealth Court to hear a pending challenge to the severe lack of resources and funding of the state’s public schools. The lawsuit, William Penn School District, et al., v. Pennsylvania Department of Education, et al., was filed in November 2014. The complaint presents detailed facts showing that thousands of students across the state, especially those in poor communities, are being denied a “thorough and efficient” education as guaranteed by the Pennsylvania Constitution.
Attorneys for the State have moved to dismiss the lawsuit, and argument on the State’s motion will be heard in Harrisburg on March 11.
The groups filing the amici curiae, or “friend of the court,” brief include Public Citizens for Children and Youth, the Pennsylvania Association of School Nurses, Education Voters, Education Matters in the Cumberland Valley, the Pennsylvania Jewish Social Action Network, and the Services Employees International Union Local 32BJ. The groups were joined by Education Justice, the national advocacy program at Education Law Center.
In the amicus brief, the groups explain to the Court how the Legislature’s adoption and implementation of substantive curriculum content standards and related assessments, beginning in 1999, has dramatically altered Pennsylvania’s public education system. The groups argue that these education standards provide clear and substantive criteria by which the Court can evaluate whether the Commonwealth is providing teachers, support staff, remedial interventions, and other resources essential to give all students the opportunity to achieve the very same State-mandated curriculum and performance standards.
The groups also explain that courts in many other states – including Maryland, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts – have used State content and performance standards to determine claims of inadequate resources and funding for students and schools to meet those standards.
Finally, the amicus brief also presents the growing body of education research demonstrating that funding spent on essential education resources results in real improvement in student outcomes, including at-risk students attending schools in high poverty neighborhoods, towns and cities.
Todd Geremia, Alex Harris and Ira Karoll, attorneys at the Jones Day law firm in New York City, and David Sciarra of the Education Law Center are representing the groups and prepared the amicus brief.
To learn more about Pennsylvania’s school funding lawsuit, please click here.
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