Education Groups Rally in PA Before Funding Trial

By Emily Scott, Public News Service
For The Posts

HARRISBURG PA – With nearly two weeks to go until the Commonwealth Court hears arguments about whether Pennsylvania’s school funding system is unconstitutional, members of the Pennsylvania Schools Work campaign took to the state Capitol steps Wednesday (Oct. 27, 2021) to highlight the issue.

The lawsuit is scheduled to be heard starting Nov. 12. The state Department of Education, state legislature leadership, and Gov. Tom Wolf are among those named as defendants in the suit.

The Education Law Center and the Public Interest Law Center are representing school districts, parents and educational organizations in the case. They contend the way schools are funded in Pennsylvania violates the education clause and the equal protection provision of the state constitution.

Deborah Gordon Klehr, executive director of the Education Law Center, said the demonstration was intended to show residents the Keystone State is failing to support public education.

“Eighty-six percent of Pennsylvania school districts have an adequacy gap, and what it looks like for students and the student experience is crumbling buildings or lack of technology, libraries that are shuttered, and limited or no access to career-training programs,” Klehr outlined.

Pennsylvania ranks 45th for the share of K-12 school funding provided by the state. The state constitution requires the Commonwealth to ensure there is a “thorough and efficient” system of education for all students.

Fifty percent of Black students and 40% of Latino students in Pennsylvania are concentrated in 20% of the districts with the lowest wealth.

Tomas Varela, director of advocacy and communications for the Urban League of Philadelphia, said it is time for the state to adequately support all students.

“When we fight for economic and social justice, we know that it starts with ensuring that our children have what they need to achieve their hopes and dreams,” Varela asserted. “The fight for adequate and equitable funding requires a collective effort, a collection of urban, suburban and rural people who demand equal opportunity for all students.”

Photo of architectural detail inside the state Capitol by The Posts