Education Law Center Issues Statement on Budget Impasse

Education Law Center Issues Statement on Budget Impasse


December 23, 2015

Deborah Gordon Klehr, Executive Director of the Education Law Center-PA, issued the following statement concerning the current budget impasse:

“The children of Pennsylvania deserve a budget that invests in them and their future. We are disappointed that the Pennsylvania House deserted the previously agreed to budget framework that would have invested critical new dollars in schools across Pennsylvania. The inadequate budget just passed by the Pennsylvania Senate walks away from our moral and legal obligations to our children and doesn’t reflect our state’s values. It reinforces unacceptable inequities in our schools and continues to shortchange children. The Governor should veto it. Every student deserves access to a nurse, a librarian, updated textbooks, and school counselors. This budget doesn’t provide hundreds of thousands of children with even these basics. We call on the House and Senate to return immediately to Harrisburg and pass a budget that restores cuts to our schools and provides every child with the opportunity to learn and reach their full potential. Children across our Commonwealth are waiting for real solutions and must no longer be held hostage by gridlock in Harrisburg.”

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The Education Law Center – PA (“ELC”) is a non-profit, legal advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring that all children in Pennsylvania have access to a quality public education. ELC 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.

Learn more: | @edlawcenterpa | facebook

Parents, school districts urge courts to intervene in school funding crisis

December 1, 2015

Parents, school districts urge courts to intervene in school funding crisis

Harrisburg, Pa. –Parents and school districts challenging Pennsylvania’s school funding system told the state Supreme Court Monday that it should decide the case on the merits and reject the state’s plea to toss the case because of its complexity and difficulty. In a reply brief filed Monday the petitioners defended their position that the courts can and must examine claims that the state is failing its constitutional obligations to adequately fund “a thorough and efficient system of public education” in a manner which does not discriminate against low-wealth districts. Continue reading

Fair funding campaign analyzes Pa. budget proposals

October 16, 2015 – The Philadelphia Public School Notebook  – by Catherine Offord

The Campaign for Fair Education Funding (CFEF), a statewide coalition of more than 50 organizations, recently released a report on the implications of the education proposals being debated in Harrisburg.

The report, “Lifting All Students: Why Pennsylvania Must Act Now to Fairly Fund Public Education and Secure Our Future,” details the practical outcomes for school districts across the state under both the $410 million funding increase in Gov. Wolf’s proposed budget and the $100 million increase proposed by Republican legislators.

“This report was an effort to make clear what is at stake if we get a truly robust education funding formula and an influx of funding this year,” said Ian Gavigan, policy and communications associate at the Education Law Center, a leading member of CFEF.

“It was an effort to ground the discussion in what actually happens in each district.”

In June, the campaign endorsed a fair funding formula proposed by the Basic Education Funding Commission. Although the formula has received general support in Harrisburg, debate continues over exactly how it should be implemented.

“The formula divides out the money, but it doesn’t dictate how much money is actually put in,” said Michael Race, vice president of communications at Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children.

The report supports Wolf’s plan to complement the formula’s introduction with extra funds, helping to close large funding gaps among Pennsylvania’s school districts.

Philadelphia, one of the districts hit hardest by the 2011 budget cuts, would benefit significantly. The report predicts a boost of $120 million more from Wolf’s proposal than what Republican legislators are suggesting.

“We’re regularly in Harrisburg, pushing legislators on this issue, presenting this report and other data about increasing equity and adequacy in schools,” said Gavigan, adding that he hopes both legislators and advocates will be able to use the research.

Race agrees. “Ultimately, we want it to be useful to lawmakers,” he said. “The next steps are not only ensuring that the formula is adopted, but that it’s maintained and not dismantled in future years. Then it’s a matter of ensuring that there are sufficient resources put into the formula to actually get districts what they need to educate students.”

Letter: “Before reform, fund properly”

July 23, 2015 – The Philadelphia Inquirer – by Adam Schott and David Lapp

Earlier this summer, the state Senate advanced a far-reaching proposal to put public schools with low test scores under direct state control. As evidenced by statements by Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams (D., Phila.) and others, the legislation appears likely to be used as a bargaining chip in negotiations around Gov. Wolf’s request that significant resources be added to the state’s education budget. Continue reading

GOP Budget Falls Short of Philly Schools Request

July 1, 2015 – Holly Otterbein, Philadelphia Magazine – Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed the GOP-led legislature’s state budget Tuesday night, in part, he said, because it would set aside far less education funding than he believes is fair.

How much less?

Earlier this year, the Philadelphia School District asked state lawmakers for an extra $206 million. The Republican bill would have provided only an additional $21.8 million to the school district, according to data from Senate GOP spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher. That’s about 11 percent of the surplus funding that district officials said they need.

Wolf’s proposed budget would also spend less on the school district than officials would like, but just slightly. His plan would allocate an extra $184 million to the city’s schools, according to district spokesman Fernando Gallard.

Although the GOP budget would have given the schools half a loaf, it still would have been enough to cover the district’s $85 million shortfall when combined with the $70 million in new revenue approved by City Council last month. The district requested money beyond that, though, because it hoped to begin investing in classrooms again after several years of severe cutbacks.

Deborah Gordon Klehr, executive director of the Education Law Center of Pennsylvania, applauded Wolf’s decision to veto the proposal.

“The General Assembly has failed our children by refusing to restore draconian funding cuts that have left our poorest districts unable to meet the needs of their students,” she said, referring to cuts made under former Gov. Tom Corbett.

Wolf and state lawmakers resumed talks on the budget at 2 p.m. today, the Associated Press reported.

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Education Law Center of Pennsylvania Lauds Gov. Wolf’s Budget Veto

CONTACT: Deborah Gordon Klehr, 215 346-6920

Education Law Center of Pennsylvania Lauds Gov. Wolf’s Budget Veto
Pa. needs a responsible budget that restores education cuts and reinvests in our schools

PHILADELPHIA – Deborah Gordon Klehr, Executive Director of the Education Law Center of Pennsylvania issued the following statement today in the wake of Governor Wolf vetoing the General Assembly’s budget proposal.

“Thank you Governor Wolf for rejecting a sham budget that does not meaningfully support Pennsylvania ‘s students. The General Assembly has failed our children by refusing to restore draconian funding cuts that have left our poorest districts unable to meet the needs of their students.”

“Years of state cuts to education spending, one-time fixes, and political favoritism have disproportionately impacted students in our poorest communities, even as those districts serve students who desperately need more resources. As a result, our state’s current funding system has become the most inequitable in the nation. The General Assembly ‘s budget makes little effort to correct these vast disparities between our poorest and wealthiest districts. Our Commonwealth needs a budget that invests new education dollars that are sufficient to make up for lost ground and will give all children, regardless of ZIP code, income, or race, the education they need.”

“We call on the leadership of all four caucuses to begin serious negotiations with the Governor to serve the needs of our children by providing adequate resources to our struggling school districts. This is what our state constitution requires. Our children cannot wait any longer.”


The Education Law Center-PA works to ensure that all children in Pennsylvania have access to a quality public education, including children living in poverty , children of color, children in the foster care and juvenile justice systems, children with disabilities, English language learners, and children experiencing homelessness. For more information, visit or follow @edlawcenterpa on Twitter.

PA House Education Budget Is Woefully Inadequate To Meet Student Needs


Contact: Deborah Gordon Klehr, [email protected], 215-346-6920

PA House Education Budget Is Woefully Inadequate To Meet Student Needs:

It’s Time to Stop Shortchanging our Children

June 28, 2015

By a vote of 112-77, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a budget yesterday that continues to underfund our schools and does not reflect a true commitment to ensuring that all of Pennsylvania’s children receive a quality education. On net, the House’s education budget only provides an additional $8 million for K-12 public education and the average increase per school district is only 1.7 percent. The Legislature’s budget appropriates only a fraction of what many say is required to serve the documented needs of students. It is also less than 25 percent of the new money recommended in the Governor’s budget for basic education and only 20 percent of new money recommended for special education.

“This is a woefully inadequate investment in the future of our public school children,” said Education Law Center’s Executive Director Deborah Gordon Klehr.

The Senate is expected to vote on the same budget today. “We urge the Legislature to appropriate $410 million in new dollars for basic education and $100 million in additional special education funding,” said Klehr. Restoration is needed to close the gaps created by the 2011 reductions in public school funding, which crippled our schools and exacerbated funding disparities across school districts. “First restore the cuts, then apply the funding formula as adopted by the Basic Education Funding Commission. This is a thoughtful, well-crafted formula based on the real costs of educating students, but it is only as good as the funding that is driven through it.”

The nearly $1 billion in cuts to basic education funding in 2011 cost 20,000 educators their jobs, forced students into larger class sizes, and eliminated key academic programs and basic services.

Special education had been flat-funded for six years until last year’s modest increase. This year, the Governor’s budget included an additional increase of $100 million in special education funding.  This is essential for the nearly 270,000 students with disabilities across Pennsylvania. The Legislature’s proposed $20 million, a 1.9 percent increase, is not enough to meet our students’ needs. “Children with disabilities cannot afford to wait and we cannot prolong the reductions in special education budgets,” said Klehr.

“Our goal is for all children to learn in adequately resourced classrooms. We hope the Legislature will commit to a long-term investment in our children. The current budget falls far short of this goal.”


The Education Law Center-PA works to ensure that all children in Pennsylvania have access to a quality public education, including children living in poverty, children of color, children in the foster care and juvenile justice systems, children with disabilities, English language learners, and children experiencing homelessness. For more information, visit or follow @edlawcenterpa on Twitter.


Thursday, May 14, 2015: Call to Action for Public Education Day

This Thursday, May 14, Education Law Center will be participating in a statewide “Call to Action for Public Education Day!” The message is simple: Harrisburg’s top priority this year must be restoring the state funding cuts to school districts and enacting a new system that provides sufficient funding for public schools so every child has an opportunity to learn. In addition, state funding MUST be driven out to districts using a formula that is based on the real costs of delivering services to students.

WHAT: School Funding Call to Action Day

WHEN: Thursday, May 14

HOW TO PARTICIPATE: Download the resources below and call your state representative and state senator

It is incredibly important for legislators to hear that people are paying attention and that we are spreading the word about what is happening to our schools! Thank you for your participation. Let’s make our voices heard on May 14!


Questions? Give us a call.

Suit challenging school funding headed to top Pa. court

April 21, 2015 – by Kristen A. Graham and Martha Woodall, Philadelphia Inquirer – A lawsuit contending that Pennsylvania’s system of school funding is broken will move to the state’s top court, attorneys vowed Tuesday after a lower court dismissed the case brought by school districts, parents, and advocates. Continue reading

ELC Testimony to the Basic Education Funding Commission

Oct. 21, 2014 – Pittsburgh | Good afternoon, my name is Cheryl Kleiman and I am a staff attorney with the Education Law Center in Pittsburgh. I appreciate the opportunity to appear in front of the Basic Education Funding Commission on behalf of the parents, students, and stakeholders we serve.

Continue reading

ELC Statement on State Budget: Missed opportunity to address school funding crisis

UPDATED July 22, 2014

Governor Corbett’s 2014-15 state budget does little to address Pennsylvania’s systemic public education funding crisis.

“This budget was a missed opportunity for the legislature and the Governor —  and a loss for public school students,” said Rhonda Brownstein, Executive Director of the Education Law Center. “There were several options for our state leaders to not only provide adequate funding to our schools, but to also enact cost-saving measures.”

The General Assembly pursued a fix to the state’s special education funding system that would have addressed the flawed approach to providing funding to students with disabilities in public schools — both charter-operated and district-run. The fix would have more accurately calculated costs and aligned resources to those costs, providing a significant savings to school districts throughout the state and ensuring that children with disabilities receive the services they need. Instead, the whims of political insiders thwarted that effort — resulting in a job half done that does not fix the admitted problem.

The effort to secure a consistent state revenue source for schools was also abandoned, leaving the legislature and Gov. Corbett to fall back on one-time funding schemes and last-minute deals to create a patchwork of public school funding that remains completely disconnected from the cost to provide all students with the necessary resources to meet the state’s academic standards.

“We cannot continue to rely, year after year, on political horse-trading and last-minute budgeting contortions that, ultimately, leave our schools lacking basic resources and leave our communities struggling to make up the difference with local revenues,” said Brownstein. “Our public schools require, and deserve, a thorough and efficient system — an actual system — of education funding as mandated by our state’s constitution.”

PA Education Budget: Funding for a Few

July 8, 2013 – The Pennsylvania education budget adopted June 30, 2013, fails to address underlying, systemic inequities in the state’s public school funding, locks in the massive 2011 education funding cuts, and boosts funding to a few select districts, according to an Education Law Center analysis.

“The General Assembly and the Governor have delivered education dollars in a way that cherry-picks a small group of school districts for additional funding, but ignores the remaining 479 school districts,” said Rhonda Brownstein, Education Law Center Executive Director.

The legislature identified 21 school districts for additional state funding. Some of these districts have high numbers of students learning English, some have high numbers of students in poverty, and some are fast-growing districts. But other school districts on the list received additional funding based on particularly narrow and unique characteristics rarely used in comprehensive education funding formulas, according to the Law Center.

“Poverty, number of students learning English, rapid growth — these are all important student and district factors that should be applied in a fair, accurate, and transparent education funding formula,” said Brownstein. “What’s unfortunate is that the General Assembly and the Governor have chosen to apply these factors to only a handful of districts. The impact for schools and students throughout the Commonwealth could have been greatly improved if our legislative leaders had simply used these factors to distribute education dollars to all 500 school districts,” she added.

For example, only five school districts received additional funding based on the “English Language Learner Supplement” in the current budget, yet 412 other school districts in the state have students learning English.

“It’s a good sign that our legislative leaders have recognized there are different costs associated with different types of students,” said Brownstein. “The students in these five districts should receive the necessary resources to meet state academic standards — but so should English language learners in all of our other school districts,” she added.

Of the 21 specially selected districts, eight have now had their 2011 funding cuts restored. There are 490 other school districts throughout the state that still have not. (Two school districts — Chester-Upland and Duquesne — received funding restorations last year as part of a state-takeover plan.)

A March 2013 Law Center report, “Funding, Formulas and Fairness,” examines public education funding formulas in each of the 50 states.

Pennsylvania remains one of only three states in the nation without a fair, accurate, and transparent education funding formula, according to the report.

The report shows most other states use funding formulas to calculate and distribute education dollars. The formulas share common components, such as an accurate per-student base cost, different funding variables that recognize student differences in all schools, and a funding goal that the state works towards in order to ensure adequate funding for all students.

Pennsylvania abandoned these basic principles in its 2011-12 budget and officially amended its education funding formula out of use in 2012.

“Pennsylvania school districts must now operate in fiscal limbo every year, wondering if they’ll be one of the chosen school districts receiving special allocations from Harrisburg,” said Brownstein. “It’s time for that to change. It’s time for Pennsylvania to become a national leader in the development and implementation of a sound, comprehensive education funding formula that addresses real classroom costs and meets real student needs in all of our schools.”

View the calculations for the various funding supplements:


The Education Law Center is a non-profit legal advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring that all of Pennsylvania’s children have access to a quality public education.

Brett Schaeffer
Education Law Center
Office: 215-238-6970 ext. 334
Mobile: 215-519-6522
[email protected]