Pennsylvania schools are the most inequitably funded in the United States, in large part because of the lack of a fair funding formula for distributing state funds and because of Recession-era budget cuts. Philadelphia, which serves predominantly students of color and students from low-income families, has been particularly hard hit and lacks the money to provide basic resources like up-to-date textbooks, school nurses and college counselors.
The statewide inequities are stark enough that parents, educators and advocates are taking a stand in court against the continued underfunding of their children's schools. Recently, the Education Law Center of Pennsylvania and the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia (PILCP) filed a suit on behalf of six school districts, two associations, and seven parents against the state arguing that Pennsylvania has failed to provide a fair education system as required by the state's own constitution.
This week, the case, William Penn School District v. Department of Education, ran into a temporary setback when a lower court ruled that it lacked the jurisdiction to oversee legislative compliance with the state constitution. They cited a previous case on this issue that they said formed a precedent preventing the court system from interfering in what it decided was a government policy issue.
However, the defendants are not giving up and will file an appeal to the State Supreme Court. The previous case was struck down because it was ruled that since there was no way of determining what a "thorough and efficient" education would be, they could not determine if students were not adequately receiving it. This time, however, the Education Law Center and the PILCP hoped that with the new Pennsylvania Core Standards in place they can convince the courts that the legislature, by adopting the standards, has set a benchmark against which its funding efforts can be measured (and found wanting).