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AMICI URGE PA COURTS TO HEAR EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY CASE
State says courts should not hear the evidence
Harrisburg, PA -- On September 18, 2015, several Pennsylvania organizations
and the national Education Law Center (ELC)
filed a friend of the court, or amicus, brief in support of the plaintiffs
in William Penn School District v. State, a school funding and educational
opportunity case. They ask the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to allow plaintiffs
to present their evidence to a trial court.
The State is arguing that plaintiffs should not have that opportunity.
The State asserts that the courts should be closed to plaintiffs without hearing their claims and without
learning what resources plaintiffs allege are missing from the
public schools and, by their absence, causing harm to students.
The Pennsylvania-based Education
Matters in the Cumberland Valley, Education
Voters Pennsylvania, the Jewish
Social Policy Action Network, the Pennsylvania
Association of School Nurses and Practitioners, Public
Citizens for Children and Youth, and Yinzercation ,
joined ELC on the amicus brief. The law firm of Jones
Day provided pro bono assistance to author the brief with
The amicus brief provides the Pennsylvania Supreme Court
with the national perspective on critical issues raised in this
appeal. The brief explains
- The plaintiffs' claims are justiciable, that is, they should
be heard by the courts. The General Assembly has enacted substantive
education standards, which the courts can use in determining
whether the Commonwealth has fulfilled its duties under the education
clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution. Courts in other states
have relied on similar substantive standards to help adjudicate
claims of unconstitutional education. Most other states have
long held that challenges to state school funding systems and
the limitations on opportunities that they can create are justiciable.
- Adequate school funding leads to better educational outcomes.
A strong body of empirical studies shows that increases in funding
designed to ensure adequate resources improves outcomes for students
with additional educational needs. And, courts across the country
have recognized this reality.
"Pennsylvania school funding is among the most unfair in the nation,
shortchanging opportunity for public school children across the
state, said David Sciarra, Executive Director of ELC. "The current
protracted standoff over the state budget makes it
even more imperative to give these school children
their day in court." See "Is
School Funding Fair?"
Susan Gobreski, Executive Director of Education Voters Pennsylvania
said, "This is an issue that is important for every person in Pennsylvania,
and we believe the court needs to allow this case to go forward.
The legislature has not acted in the current crisis, and it's crucial
for the Court to stand up for the constitution and Pennsylvania's
children and families."
After the state legislature and governor slashed Pennsylvania
public school funding dramatically and the schools had to make
major cuts that plaintiffs claim are harming kids, the plaintiffs
decided to file this case in November 2014.
The school district and parent plaintiffs are represented by attorneys
at the Public Interest Law Center
of Philadelphia (PILCOP), the Education
Law Center-PA, and O'Melveny & Myers,
LLP, pro bono.
The Court will schedule oral argument on this appeal for early
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