Commonwealth Court dismisses school-funding lawsuit
April 21, 2015 – by Solomon Leach, Philadelphia Daily News – COMMONWEALTH Court yesterday dismissed a lawsuit accusing the state of failing to adequately and equitably fund Pennsylvania public schools.
The complaint was filed by six school districts, seven parents, the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools and the NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference, who said they plan to appeal to the state Supreme Court.
“This is a question of paramount importance to all Pennsylvanians, and we always knew this would ultimately be decided by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court,” Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia executive director Jennifer Clarke, a member of the legal team representing the plaintiffs, said in a statement.
The suit, filed in November, argued that former Gov. Tom Corbett, state lawmakers and the state Department of Education violated their constitutional obligation to provide all students with the opportunity to pass state-mandated academic standards. Oral arguments were held last month.
The ruling is the latest in a long line of Pennsylvania state court decisions affirming that school funding is a function of the Legislature and executive branch, and therefore not a matter for the courts.
Since the previous rulings, Pennsylvania adopted the Keystone exams as a graduation requirement and completed a costing-out study setting levels for what each school district needs to provide an adequate education.
Nonetheless, the court’s opinion, written by President Judge Dan Pellegrini, said those changes “do not confer funding discretion upon this court nor provide us with judicially manageable standards for determining whether the General Assembly has discharged its duty under the Constitution.”
Meanwhile, a group of Pennsylvania lawmakers is working to propose a fair-funding formula that would likely provide poorer school districts with a higher percentage of state aid and reduce funding to wealthier districts.