Attorney General Says PA School Funding System Violates State Constitution

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Six amicus briefs have been filed in support of school districts, organizations and parents who have challenged the state legislature’s failure to adequately and fairly fund public schools

In an amicus brief filed Monday night, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the state’s top law enforcement official, says the Pennsylvania state constitution guarantees all students the right to receive high-quality public education and that Pennsylvania’s current school funding system fails to address this. Standard. Read the summary here.

“The Court’s decision may determine the future of public education in Pennsylvania and, therefore, the strength of our economy, government, and community for generations to come,” the brief states. “The Court should find that the Education Clause obligates the General Assembly to provide all children in Pennsylvania with a comprehensive, effective, and contemporary public education and to adjudicate in favor of the Petitioners.”

Five other amicus briefs were filed in support of the petitioners, from constitutional law professors, children’s advocacy organizations, teachers’ unions, and business and civic leaders. Taken together, the briefs send a strong message: Pennsylvania students have a fundamental right under our state constitution to receive a high-quality public education. The General Assembly is failing in its duty to guarantee this right, with dire consequences for the children of today and for the future of Pennsylvania.

Amicus’ briefs were due Monday, May 16.

The Education Law Center-PA and the Public Interest Law Center together represent school districts, parents, and statewide organizations that have filed a lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania’s current public school funding system. – prosecuting legislative leaders, state education officials and the Governor in the Commonwealth Court.

“This is a big deal. The people of the Commonwealth know that students in Pennsylvania deserve better and our state constitution demands it,” said Dan Urevick-Ackelsberg, attorney at the Public Interest Law Center. “The Attorney General has made it clear that our state legislature has failed to meet this standard established by our state constitution and that students have paid the price.”

“The amicus briefs show the breadth of support for our case from a wide diversity of perspectives and communities – from constitutional law professors, child-serving organizations, teachers’ unions and representatives of Pennsylvania businesses, civic organizations, and post-secondary institutions,” mentioned Maura McInerney, legal director of the Education Law Center-PA. “These briefs make clear that our Constitution requires that all students – regardless of wealth, race or zip code – have an education that enables them to engage in meaningful work, to participate as good citizens informed and contribute to the viability of their communities. and our state.

A key legal issue in this case is the type of education Pennsylvania public school students are entitled to receive. Pennsylvania’s Education Clause – Article 3, Section 14 of the State Constitution – directs the State Legislature to support “a complete and efficient system of public education to meet the needs of the Commonwealth”. Petitioners challenging Pennsylvania’s current school funding system say it requires the state legislature to ensure that students from every community, regardless of wealth, race or any other characteristic, can receive an education. high-quality public education that prepares them for careers, higher education, and civic participation.

Currently, the petitioners claim, the state legislature is failing to meet this obligation, with insufficient public funding for public schools, leading to a two-tier system divided by local wealth.

Shapiro’s amicus brief focuses on the history of the state Constitution to make it clear that the petitioners’ reading of the Constitution is the correct one: that all children in Pennsylvania are entitled to a “public school education comprehensive, effective, and contemporary,” not just the ability to attend public schools with basics such as teachers, curriculum, books, and supplies.

“Despite the best efforts of dedicated Commonwealth teachers and administrators, many schools in Pennsylvania are unable to provide the level of education constitutionally required – not for lack of trying, but for lack of adequate funding,” says the memory. “The consequences – students who do not master the basics and tools for success in life and career – lie at the feet of the legislature.”

Below is a complete list and brief description of the other five amicus briefs filed on behalf of the applicants. More information can be found in an upcoming press kit.

  • Five Pennsylvania law school constitutional law professors argue that education is a basic right under the Pennsylvania Constitution and that there is compelling legal precedent for that finding in many other states where cases have been decided. . Read the summary here.
  • Twenty-one children’s aid and education organizations filed a brief, arguing that students in low-income districts need targeted programs and services to receive an adequate education and that increased funding for schools will improve their academic and life outcomes. Read the summary here.
  • Seventeen representatives from Pennsylvania organizations, businesses, and institutions of higher learning filed a brief, arguing that Pennsylvania needs to do more to meet its college and career readiness standards, especially for economically disadvantaged students. Read the summary here.
  • The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, the American Federation of Teachers and its Pennsylvania branch maintain that education is a basic right under the Pennsylvania Constitution. Read the summary here.
  • The Pennsylvania State Education Association analyzes data from the PA Department of Education and says students in low-income school districts have fewer teachers and education support professionals than their peers in wealthy districts. Read the summary here.

Amicus briefs will be followed by a post-trial briefing on the legal issues from both parties, with the final brief due on July 15, 2022. The Commonwealth Court will hold oral argument on the legal issues on July 26, 2022 at 9 a.m. 30 in the courtroom. 3001 of the Pennsylvania Judicial Center in Harrisburg. The court’s decision could come several months after the July 26 oral argument.

Learn more about the case at FundOurSchoolsPA.org.

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