September 2008
In This Issue

Education Justice supports advocates, policymakers, attorneys and others, in states across the nation, who are working to strengthen and improve public schools and close opportunity gaps, especially for low-income and minority schoolchildren.

Thanks to the concerted efforts of state advocacy groups and champions of public education within state government, Pennsylvania now has a fair and rational school finance system. The Pennsylvania General Assembly also approved the governor's proposal for the largest dollar increase—$275 million—for basic education funding in at least two decades and ensured that public education will remain a priority by locking funding targets into law.
On September 8, 2008, at a Congressional Briefing on education sponsored by Congressman Chaka Fattah, David Sciarra thanked the Institute for Educational Equity and Opportunity for its recent book, “Education in the 50 States,” and urged Congress to change federal policy to help (and no longer hinder) efforts in the states to improve educational equity and children's opportunity to learn. Earlier in the summer, Sciarra asked African-American lawyers attending the National Bar Association's annual conference to become even more involved in struggles for equal educational opportunity.
Dr. Charles Bruner, a nationally recognized expert in early childhood development and education, testified last week in South Dakota's education finance case that the state's constitutional duty to provide an adequate public education system required it to fund a high quality pre-kindergarten program for low-income children. Research shows that high quality programs for three- and four-year-olds help low-income children start school on equal footing with other children.
More than 50 years after Brown v. Board of Education, most of the nation's urban public school systems continue to be a pipeline to failure for half of their Black male students. “Given Half a Chance: The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males” was announced by the Schott Foundation for Public Education at the Unity '08 Convention, the nation's largest gathering of journalists of color. Although it points to school districts generating major successes, the overall picture is shockingly bleak.
In October, the Schott Foundation for Public Education will sponsor the National Opportunity to Learn Education Summit in Washinton, D.C. The summit will gather experts to analyze the challenges facing public education, and will propose strategies to develop a nationwide “opportunity to learn” framework, ensuring equitable access to the necessary resources to provide high achievement outcomes for all students.

A new book, “Other People's Children: The Battle for Justice and Equality in New Jersey's Schools,” by Deborah Yaffe offers an in-depth look at New Jersey school funding litigation, beginning with Robinson v. Cahill, filed in 1970, and Abbott v. Burke in 1981. The book also explores the behind-the-scenes efforts of lawyers involved in these cases, including Education Law Center attorneys Marilyn Morheuser and David Sciarra.


September 2008 Trial continues in South Dakota Coalition of Schools v. State of South Dakota.
September 22, 2008 Oral argument in New Jersey on state's motion in Abbott v. Burke to have the state supreme court determine that the new school funding law is constitutional, and to release the state from the Abbott remedial orders, except on facilities.
September 22, 2008 Bench trial begins in Columbia Falls Elem. Sch. Dist. 6 v. State of Montana on the adequacy of the state's school funding formula.
September 25, 2008 ELC Executive Director David Sciarra speaks in Washington, DC, at the Congressional Black Caucus's Annual Legislative Conference.
October 2008 The remedy phase of the Moore v. State of Alaska trial is scheduled to begin.
October 2-4, 2008 National Opportunity to Learn Education Summit in Washington, D.C. (see article above).
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State-by-state information on school funding litigation, past and pending, can be found at this web page.

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