Pa. failing to provide ‘a high-quality education,’ litigants say in latest case

The state Legislature is violating the state Constitution by failing to provide “a high-quality education” to every child and by discriminating against students in low-wealth school districts, the petitioners in Pennsylvania’s school funding lawsuit claim in the latest brief filed in the ongoing case.

Wilkes-Barre Area and five other Pennsylvania school districts initiated the litigation in 2014. A four-month trial in the case concluded March 10, and the petitioners filed their post-trial brief on June 1.

Attorneys for the state Legislature and the executive branch have to file post-trial briefs by July 1. The petitioners can then file a reply brief July 15.

All of the attorneys are scheduled to meet again on July 26 for oral arguments, and after that, Commonwealth Court Judge Renée Cohn Jubelirer can issue a decision on the case.

Shenandoah Valley, Panther Valley, Lancaster, Greater Johnstown and William Penn are the other districts to challenge how the state funds education. They are represented by Education Law Center PA, the Public Interest Law Center and the O’Melveny law firm.

In the June 1 brief, the attorneys for the petitioners said the “critical features of” the state’s education funding system “include a high dependence on local income and property taxes, inadequate levels of state funding” and “regressive and illogical methods of distributing funding that are disconnected from educational need.”

In a May 2 brief outlining their findings and conclusions, attorneys for Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman and House Speaker Bryan Cutler said the petitioners” claims about achievement gaps are “based on school district wealth rather than funding levels” and thus are “insufficient to establish that those gaps were caused by inadequate funding, as opposed to community, family, economic or personal factors, which are more prevalent in lower wealth districts, or other factors, like the ways in which districts spend their funds.”

Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the Democratic nominee for governor, filed an amicus brief last month in support of the lawsuit.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today