Child Advocates Seek More Special Ed Funding

The Sanatoga Post writes about the two dozen advocacy organizations that worked together to pressure Pennsylvania lawmakers to increase the money available for special education purposes. The article quotes ELC Attorney Reynelle Brown Staley. Read here.

Opposition Brief to Mootness Application Filed in School Funding Case

Funding gaps between high-wealth and low-wealth districts are growing, and state funding for classroom expenses has declined over four years. Those are key points in our latest brief in the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court case filed by parents, school districts, and two statewide associations challenging Pennsylvania’s broken school funding system. In May, the Court directed the parties to address the issue of whether the state’s adoption of an education funding formula in 2016 renders the case moot. Our brief, filed July 6, 2018, refutes that argument made by respondent Senator Scarnati. Affidavits detail the difficult conditions in our petitioners’ school districts, making clear that the state’s funding system has not been fixed.  There’s more information in the News Release, and you can read the case documents here.

Education Law Center Applauds Change in Philadelphia’s Student Discipline Policy

ELC has long advocated for alternatives to out-of-school suspensions of young children; they are not age-appropriate and do not make schools safer. Suspensions of kindergartners were banned in Philadelphia in 2016. The District’s School Reform Commission in June 2018 formally changed the School District’s student conduct and discipline policy, extending the existing ban on out-of-school suspensions to cover grades 1 and 2. This means that students in those grades cannot be suspended unless it is shown that their behavior resulted in serious bodily injury. Read our release here.

Pennsylvania’s New Budget: For Education, Barely a Start

Pennsylvania has an on-time budget for 2018-19, approved by the legislature and signed by Gov. Wolf on June 22. It provides modest but needed new funding for Pennsylvania’s schoolchildren. While the additional dollars for schools help, this budget increase provides only a small fraction of what is needed for an adequately and equitably funded statewide public education system. The heavy lifting is still needed as urgently as ever to address shortfalls in school funding across the state. Read more here.

PDE Widens Investigation and Remedy For Young Children With Disabilities Transitioning to Kindergarten in Philadelphia

The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) has significantly broadened its corrective action in response to ELC’s administrative complaint alleging that the School District of Philadelphia denied young children with disabilities timely evaluations and special education services upon transitioning to Kindergarten or First Grade.  In its prior Complaint Investigation Report (“CIR”) PDE required the District to determine whether it denied any child’s right to receive mandated services during this critical transition, and if so, to issue compensatory education to make up for lost services.  At ELC’s urging through a Request for Reconsideration, PDE agreed to verify the accuracy of the District’s determination that 170 children had been denied services with a random file review.  Recently completed, that review disclosed that the District failed to identify a significant number of students who were denied special education services.  In response, PDE has now expanded its investigation to include an additional 1,795 students with disabilities who transitioned to school last fall to ensure that all children receive needed make-up services.  ELC will continue to press PDE to ensure every child receives relief.  The District is also required to obtain PDE approval for a new procedure to prevent recurring violations this upcoming fall.  You can read the complaints filed by Independence Foundation Law Fellow Sean McGrath and PDE’s Investigation Reports here.

Education Law Center Submits Testimony on School Safety to PA House Education Committee

The Education Law Center submitted testimony to a March 15, 2018, Pennsylvania House Education Committee hearing on school safety. We urge officials to reject militarized responses to school violence and to focus instead on strategies to foster a school climate that is supportive of all students and attentive to students experiencing trouble or trauma. The hearing comes one day after thousands of students joined the National Student Walkout, calling for action against gun violence. Read our testimony here.

 

 

 

 

Commonwealth Court Holds Oral Argument in ELC’s Funding Case

Not even a snowstorm could halt the momentum of ELC’s Fair Funding Lawsuit, as advocates from ELC, PILC, and pro bono counsel O’Melveny and Myers argued today that objections filed by the defendants were without merit and should be dismissed, allowing the case to move to discovery and trial.  Details, including links to news coverage of the oral arguments, are here.

Pennsylvania’s Landmark School Funding Lawsuit Heads Back to Court

Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court will hear oral arguments next Wednesday in a landmark lawsuit challenging inequitable and inadequate school funding in Pennsylvania. Attorneys from the Education Law Center and the Public Interest Law Center will ask the Court to reject remaining preliminary objections and a motion to dismiss asserted by the legislature so that the case can proceed directly and promptly to trial.  Read the News Release here.