Statement on Victory in the Education Funding Lawsuit

Stephen Herzenberg and Marc Stier |

We are deeply gratified that Commonwealth Court Justice Renée Cohn Jubelirer has ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in the education funding lawsuit, which sought to have Pennsylvania’s system of funding K-12 schools declared unconstitutional on the grounds that it did not meet the requirement that “The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth” (PA Constitution. Art. 3 section 4).

The dry language of law and statistics in Judge Jubelirer’s long opinion fully embraces the moral and constitutional imperative that “every student receives a meaningful opportunity to succeed academically, socially, and civically, which requires that all students have access to a comprehensive, effective, and contemporary system of public education” (William Penn School District et al. v. Pennsylvania Department of Education; Memorandum Opinion by President Judge Renée Cohn Jubelirer, February 7, 2023, p. 776.)

Together with our allies in the Pennsylvania Schools Work campaign, the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center and Keystone Research Center have worked for over a decade in support of this lawsuit. We have released study after study that document the failure of the K-12 schools in the state of Pennsylvania to meet this standard. Together with our allies, we have shown that schools in low-income, high-poverty communities, as well as communities with a large share of Black and Hispanic students, are severely underfunded relative to schools in higher-income communities with a smaller share of Black and Hispanic students. We have shown the harmful effects of the funding inequity on student achievement and later life success.

This important decision now mandates that Governor Shapiro and the General Assembly devise a plan together to overcome the deep inequity in school funding that has not only harmed generation after generation of young people in our commonwealth but has robbed all of us of the full flowering of the talents and abilities of young people who have received an inadequate education.

While we look back with sadness at those generations of students who were left behind, Judge Jubelirer’s decision today enables us to look forward with hope to a new era in which our state constitution’s promise of educational equality is finally made a reality.