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Court to determine whether school funding case moves forward

A group of school districts, parents and advocates say the state’s public-education funding fails constitutional standards.

Michael Churchill
Michael ChurchillRead more

LAWYERS representing six Pennsylvania school districts, parents and education advocates argued yesterday that state courts must hold the Legislature accountable for providing adequate funding for public education.

The arguments before a panel of Commonwealth Court judges in Harrisburg were to determine whether the lawsuit should move forward.

The plaintiffs, which also include seven parents from Philadelphia and the NAACP, claim the state has not provided sufficient funding for most students to pass mandatory graduation exams. They also claim the state's current funding system discriminates against students who live in poorer districts.

"This is really about the future of students, and we essentially said that it's vitally important that the courts make sure the Legislature obey the constitutional command," said Michael Churchill, an attorney with the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, one of the groups representing the plaintiffs.

Lawyers for high-ranking Republican lawmakers argued that the issue of funding has always been left to the discretion of lawmakers, not the courts, noting that similar lawsuits in the state have been denied.

The judges expressed concern about their ability to enforce a ruling in the event the case moves forward.

Regardless of the Commonwealth Court's decision, the case will likely be appealed to the state Supreme Court, Churchill said.

No timeline has been set for a decision.