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School-funding case aired in Harrisburg

HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania's system of funding education is broken, and the courts must order lawmakers to make it right, attorneys for school districts, parents and organizations who have sued the state told a panel of judges here Wednesday.

The suit - brought by school systems including the William Penn School District in Delaware county and parents including two from the Philadelphia School District - holds that Pennsylvania's education funding system is "irrational and inequitable."

Lawyers for the state told seven Commonwealth Court judges that Pennsylvania must only keep public schools open to meet its constitutional obligation.

Not so, said Michael Churchill, a lawyer with the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, one of the groups representing the plaintiffs.

"That's a nineteenth century standard of what an adequate school is," Churchill said.

Churchill said he expected the state Supreme Court to ultimately hear the case.

Besides William Penn, the plaintiffs include the Panther Valley School District in Carbon County, the School District of Lancaster, the Greater Johnstown School District in Cambria County, the Wilkes-Barre Area School District in Luzerne County, and the Shenandoah Valley School District in Schuylkill County.

The state NAACP and the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools filed on behalf of their members.