William Penn SD et al. v. Pa. Dept. of Education et al. (Pa. Commonwealth Court, 2018)
Chronology of the case
The lawsuit went to trial in Commonwealth Court beginning Nov. 12, 2021. The trial lasted for nearly four months. Post-trial proceedings will culminate in oral argument on the legal issues in the case on July 26, 2022..
Read Frequently Asked Questions About the School Funding Case. Current information about the case is also available at FundOurSchoolsPA.org, a joint website developed by the Education Law Center and Public Interest Law Center.
The case, initially filed in 2014 on behalf of parents, school districts, and statewide organizations in response to the failure of Pennsylvania’s legislature to adequately and equitably fund public education, was remanded to Commonwealth Court in September 2017 by the state Supreme Court, which ruled that the claims in our case are subject to judicial review.
Following oral argument on March 7, 2018, Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled in our favor on May 7, 2018, in this case, overruling a set of objections filed by state legislative leaders and moving our school funding lawsuit closer to trial. The court spelled out the next steps in the case, directing the parties to address two issues before it goes to trial: Whether the state’s adoption of education funding formula renders the case moot and whether education is an important or fundamental right under Pennsylvania law. Read more in the May 7, 2018, news release.
Our brief filed July 6, 2018, refuted the argument made by then-respondent Sen. Scarnati that the funding formula renders the case moot, pointing out the decline in funding available for classroom expenses and the widening gaps in spending between low-wealth and high-wealth districts. Read more in the July 6, 2018, news release. The respondents also filed briefs on whether the case is moot, as described in the August 7, 2018, news release.
The court denied the respondents’ petition to dismiss the case as moot in an order issued August 21, 2018, clearing the way for the case to move toward trial, as described in this news release.
In a scheduling order issued on December 6, 2018, the court set a tentative trial date for 2020, as described in this news release. In the two years following this order, the court issued several briefing orders and updated the schedule. In summer 2020, the parties completed the extensive pre-trial phase known as discovery, when each party was gathering evidence to support their case through documents, witness statements, and other means. Over the course of the discovery process, the parties completed more than 70 depositions. The parties have exchanged multiple expert reports and rebuttals. Filings relating to motions for summary judgment were submitted in late 2020. The court issued rulings on those motions in early 2021, the last major step before scheduling the case for trial; read our March 2021 news release.
In an April 1, 2021 order, the court set a schedule for pretrial filings and tentatively scheduled the trial for the fall. In summer 2021, the court ruled on several motions in limine (motions to limit evidence), denying a motion by respondents to preclude the introduction of evidence of racial disparities.
The court scheduled trial to begin on November 12, 2021 in Courtroom 3002 of the Pennsylvania Judicial Center in Harrisburg. Trial concluded with closing arguments on March 10, 2022. Commonwealth Court Judge Renée Cohn Jubelirer presides over the case. A livestream was available to the public.
Key court documents
Commonwealth Court Order Setting Oral Argument (1/31/2018)
Decision Overruling Preliminary Objections (5/7/2018)
Response of Senator Scarnati on Mootness (8/3/2018)
Response of Governor Wolf on Mootness (8/3/2018)
Scarnati Application for Decision on Mootness (8/13/2018)
Answer and New Matter: State Board of Education (9/20/2018)
Answer and New Matter: Sen. Scarnati (9/19/2018)
Answer and New Matter: Rep. Turzai (9/19/2018)
Answer and New Matter: Gov. Wolf (9/19/2018)
Scheduling Order (12/6/2018)
Order Filed for Oral Argument (5/29/2020)
Order Granting Application for Extension (4/1/2021 – includes tentative trial start date)
Scheduling Order (6/22/21)
Memorandum Opinion on Post-2014 Evidence (7/23/21)
Scheduling Order (8/18/2021)
Scheduling Order (9/17/2021)
Decorum Order (11/10/2021)
Scheduling Order (4/18/2022)
Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law (5/2/2022)
Brief of Amici Curiae Law Professors (5/13/2022)