ELC advocacy informs new federal guidance for improving educational access for children in foster care

June 27, 2016

The Education Law Center’s long-time advocacy for children in foster care informed new joint guidance issued on June 23rd by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services to ensure school stability and improve educational outcomes for the 270,000 children of school age in foster care.

This new guidance directs states, including Pennsylvania, on how to comply with specific provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act, the new federal law which replaced No Child Left Behind.  These provisions ensure that students placed in foster care will be permitted to remain in the same school even if they move and ensures immediate enrollment in a new school.  The law also requires schools and child welfare agencies to collaborate to provide transportation for students in foster care when needed and requires school districts and states to collect and report data on the academic achievement and graduation rates of children in foster care.

ELC is proud to be a founding member of the Legal Center for Foster Care and Education, along with the American Bar Association’s Center on Children and the Law and the Juvenile Law Center. The Center will continue to work with federal and state officials on effective implementation of the new law in light of this guidance.

PA Supreme Court sets argument date for fair education funding lawsuit

June 16, 2016

Harrisburg, Pa.—The Pennsylvania Supreme Court announced on Wednesday that it will hear oral argument for Pennsylvania’s landmark education funding lawsuit on September 13, 2016, in its Philadelphia courtroom.

The lawsuit, William Penn School District vs. Pennsylvania Dept. of Education, seeks to remedy decades of inequitable education funding that have robbed children of the resources they need to succeed. It argues that the state’s system of funding public education is so inadequate and unequal that it violates state constitutional provisions requiring a “thorough and efficient system of public education” and equal treatment under the law.

The suit was filed in November 2014 by a broad-based coalition of parents, school districts and non-profit organizations that have seen firsthand the devastating impact of these failures in classrooms and in children’s lives. The plaintiffs include: six school districts – William Penn, Panther Valley, Lancaster, Greater Johnstown, Wilkes-Barre Area and Shenandoah Valley – the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools (PARSS), and the NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference. The Public Interest Law Center and the Education Law Center of Pennsylvania are representing these plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs are asking the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to permit a full trial in this case by reversing a 2015 Commonwealth Court decision that dismissed the case as raising a political question. This reversal would allow the plaintiffs to present evidence that the state General Assembly has violated the Pennsylvania Constitution by failing to adequately and equitably fund Pennsylvania’s public schools.

“We are pleased that the Court will hear argument in September on the need to enforce the Constitution’s requirement that every child receive a quality, adequately funded, public education. Our inadequate, inequitable funding system leaves children without the most basic resources they deserve, and that they need to become productive members of society,” said Michael Churchill, of counsel for the Public Interest Law Center.

“After years of insufficient funding for our classrooms, protracted stalemates and in the absence of any method for linking school spending to state standards, court enforcement of the constitution is the only way we can guarantee that all children in Pennsylvania will have adequate resources to learn regardless of where they live and what school they attend,” said Deborah Gordon Klehr, Executive Director of the Education Law Center. “We are confident that the courts will step in where the General Assembly has failed and begin upholding this important constitutional requirement.”

In the absence of judicial oversight, the Commonwealth has underfunded rural, suburban, and urban schools all over the state for many years. According to the petition filed by the plaintiffs, the General Assembly has adopted state standards that define the academic content children must learn but has failed to provide the funding necessary to give students an opportunity to meet those standards. As a result, students in underfunded schools struggle academically and fail to meet state standards.  While Pennsylvania recently adopted a school funding formula – which the attorneys for the plaintiffs acknowledge is a step in the right direction – only a small fraction of education dollars will be driven through that formula and state funding remains wholly inadequate to meet the needs of students.

If the plaintiffs win at the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the case will return to the Commonwealth Court for a full trial on the merits.

All case documents can be viewed here: https://edfundinglawsuit.wordpress.com/

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The Education Law Center of Pennsylvania works to ensure that all children in Pennsylvania have access to a quality public education, including poor children, children of color, children with disabilities, children in the foster care and juvenile justice systems, English language learners, and other vulnerable children. For more information visit www.elc-pa.org or follow on Twitter @edlawcenterpa.

The Public Interest Law Center uses high-impact legal strategies to improve the well-being and life prospects of vulnerable populations by ensuring they have access to fundamental resources including a high-quality public education, access to health care, employment, housing, safe and healthy neighborhoods and the right to vote. For more information visit www.pubintlaw.org or follow on Twitter @PubIntLawCtr.


Barb Grimaldi, Public Interest Law Center, 267-546-1304, [email protected]

Anthony Campisi, Education Law Center, 215-735-6760 [email protected]


Program and Administrative Assistant Job Opening in Pittsburgh

The Education Law Center is hiring a Program and Administrative Assistant in its Pittsburgh, PA office. The Program and Administrative Assistant is responsible for general office management and administration, coordination, and contributions to program implementation, communication, and development strategies and other administrative support for three full time attorneys. The Program Administrative Coordinator is a key member of our staff and is involved in all aspects of our work. This position is critical to ensuring that our Pittsburgh office operates efficiently and effectively, and in collaboration with our Philadelphia office, to provide high quality legal services on issues of public education to parents, students, and community advocates across Pennsylvania. This position is to be filled as soon as possible.

Click here to view the full announcement and how to apply. 

Click here to view other opportunities to work with ELC.




SICC Passes Resolution Pressing OCDEL to Ban the Use of Exclusionary Discipline in Early Childhood Programs

ELC applauds Pennsylvania State Interagency Coordinating Council (SICC) for passing a resolution urging the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) to develop a comprehensive statewide policy banning the use of exclusionary discipline in all early learning programs across Pennsylvania.

The Resolution was a direct result of our work, in collaboration with the ACLU and our early intervention and early childhood partners, who pressed the SICC to take this action. In March, ELC Pittsburgh Director Nancy A. Hubley and ACLU Executive Director Harold Jordan presented to the SICC on the compelling state and national data and new Federal guidance to highlight the damage done through exclusionary discipline. ELC pressed the SICC and OCDEL to develop and implement new statewide, interagency policies to address the discriminatory use of exclusionary discipline in Pre-K programs. At the conclusion of the presentation, SICC members introduced the resolution, which was ultimately passed on June 2, 2016.

The Resolution recognizes that all young children deserve to be in inclusive, high quality early childhood programs. It further acknowledges that for this to occur it is imperative that our youngest learners are not being suspended, expelled, and otherwise excluded from the learning environment. This is particularly important given that young African American children and children receiving, or who are eligible to receive, special education and early intervention services are disproportionately pushed out of early learning programs. The Resolution calls for OCDEL to address race and disability as it continues to build accountability and professional capacity for early learning programs to serve all children.

ELC acknowledges the good work OCDEL is already doing to move in this direction, with increasing attention and development of interagency supports, accurate data collection systems, and race-positive, gender-specific, and trauma-informed professional development. OCDEL is convening multiple forums this summer to continue the conversation with key stakeholders to inform the development of a statewide policy that not only bans exclusionary discipline in Pre-K programs, but further develops and supports the inclusion of all students in early education programs.

As ELC continues this work to limit and eliminate the use of exclusionary discipline in early childhood settings, we also remain committed to raising and addressing these issues in other forums, including school districts and the General Assembly, to extend this ban to students in elementary school.