Enough Is Enough. The Courts Must Intervene.

Susan Spicka |

The following is a guest post from Susan Spicka, director of Education Voters of Pennsylvania. It was originally posted at their blog here.

What is happening with the school funding lawsuit?

On November 10, 2014, six school districts, the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools, the NAACP – PA State Conference, and families whose children attend under-funded and under-resourced schools filed a case in the Commonwealth Court asking the court to:

  • Declare that the current system of funding our schools does not comply with the state constitution;
  • Order the defendants to cease using a funding system that does not provide adequate funding where students can meet state standards and which discriminates against low wealth districts; and
  • Order the defendants to create and maintain a constitutional school funding system that will enable all students to meet state academic standards and does not discriminate against low-wealth school district.

In April 2015, the Commonwealth Court decided to dismiss the case on the grounds that it presents a political question that cannot be addressed through the court system. In September 2015, the petitioners filed a brief asking the Supreme Court to send the case to a full trial. They contend that the Commonwealth Court erred in dismissing the lawsuit against legislative leaders and state education officials.  The appeal is now fully briefed by all parties, and the high court is expected to hear argument in the case in 2016.

The Supreme Court will hear oral argument from both sides sometime later this year. After hearing the argument, the Supreme Court will decide whether or not to allow the school funding lawsuit to proceed to a full trial.

We most strongly believe that parents and students should have their day in court.   

  • Only if the case goes to a full trial will the plaintiffs have the opportunity to share with the court how state’s current irrational and inadequate funding system is hurting children throughout the state.
  • Only if the case goes to a full trial will the court be able to enforce the constitution instead of leaving this most important duty up to the General Assembly, which has categorically failed to do its job.

For more details about the school funding lawsuit, please refer to the Updated Lawsuit FAQs.

Why is public support for the school funding lawsuit important?

Lawmakers must understand that that we are watching them and that we know they are neglecting their constitutional duty. The state has consistently failed to meet its basic responsibility to put in place a school funding system that delivers the essential resources all students need to be successful and it is Pennsylvania’s children who are paying the steep price for this failure.  

The current budget impasse dramatically illustrates both the need for court intervention and the reason why we must create a climate where lawmakers feel they must support long-term, adequate funding for schools.

How can I support and help raise awareness of the school funding lawsuit?

Write a letter to the editor in support of the school funding lawsuit so people in your community and your area lawmakers will read about this in their local paper.

  • Visit our Updated Write a Letter to the Editor to Support the Lawsuit for talking points and a link that will make it easy for you to email your letter to your local newspapers.
  • Make sure to include some information about the local impact that the broken school funding system has had on children your community.

Encourage your local community group or school board to pass a resolution in support of the school funding lawsuit and send the resolution to your area newspapers, your lawmakers, and the governor.

  • Any organization can propose and pass a resolution in support of the education funding lawsuit – a community group, a PTO, a PTA, a home school association, a school board, a municipal organization such as a borough council, etc.
  • Even proposing the resolution at a public meeting will get people talking about the lawsuit and the issue of inequitable school funding in Pennsylvania.
  • Download our Sample Resolution in Support of PA School Funding Lawsuit. This resolution is long and designed to educate people about the lawsuit as they read it from beginning to end. Your organization is welcome to change the resolution to suit your needs.
  • If you pass a resolution, please email it to Susan Spicka at sspicka@educationvoterspa.org.  We are compiling a list of organizations that have done this.
  • For more information, read our Frequently Asked Questions about Passing a Resolution in Support of the School Funding Lawsuit

Plan to attend the oral argument before the Supreme Court. When the court schedules a date, we will let you know so that you can put it on your schedule and show up to demonstrate strong public support.

The courts must act and rule in favor of the plaintiffs. They must declare what is happening is legally wrong and join the demand for a just remedy so every child in PA has an opportunity to learn. But the courts alone will not solve this problem.  It will require all of us.