The tentative budget agreement between Pennsylvania Gov. Wolf and legislative leaders that was announced on June 24 includes a significant boost in special education funding. There are other bright spots in the budget, but state education funding still falls far below what is needed. ELC executive director Deborah Gordon Klehr issued a statement on the budget on June 25, 2019.
Read the statement.
Delco News Network quotes ELC Legal Director Maura McInerney in an article on Governor Wolf and Senator Joe Scarnati’s opposing briefs on the legal status of ELC’s school funding lawsuit. They write: “‘The governor recognizes that our public school children continue to suffer the painful consequences of underfunded schools every day. He understands that their need for justice is now,’ said Maura McInerney. ‘There can be no question that a dispute continues to exist regarding the adequacy and equity of Pennsylvania’s broken school funding system.'” Read more here.
Public News Source quotes ELC Legal Fellow Sean McGrath on the availability of early intervention services in the state of Pennsylvania. Read more here.
“Not only has Pennsylvania’s new school-funding formula failed to remedy disparities between wealthy and poor public school districts, the spending gap between such districts has grown, according to a filing Friday by plaintiffs in a landmark funding lawsuit,” Maddie Hanna of Philly.com writes, on ELC’s fair funding suit. Read more here.
ELC Executive Director Deborah Gordon Klehr writes a letter to the editor in the Delco Times addressing the pervasive challenges underfunded school districts have in meeting the needs of special education students. Read more here.
The Inquirer reports on ELC’s fair funding lawsuit and its continued progress toward trial. Read more here.
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.
WHYY quotes ELC Executive Director Deborah Gordon Klehr on Governor Wolf’s proposed budget. “Our children need more,” Klehr writes. Read more here.
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.
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.
On May 7, 2018, the Commonwealth Court overruled objections filed by state legislative leaders and moved our school funding lawsuit closer to trial. Read about the Court’s decision and our next steps for resolving underfunding and gross inequalities in Pennsylvania’s schools.
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.
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.
On Wednesday, March 14, students nationwide participated in a National School Walkout to show solidarity with Parkland students and bring attention to Congress’s inaction towards gun violence. View our National School Walkout Fact Sheet to learn more about this walkout and what your rights are as a student in Pennsylvania.
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 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.
Education Law Center Executive Director Deborah Gordon Klehr applauded Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed increases in funding for basic education, special education, early education, and career and technical education in his Feb. 6 budget address. But the state still has far to go, she said in a press statement, to achieve an adequate and equitable funding system. Read the statement here.
In a January 25 court filing, Governor Wolf, on behalf of Pennsylvania’s Executive Branch, dropped all previous objections and requested that the Commonwealth Court move our fair funding case forward. Legislative respondents continue to oppose the case moving forward; Senator Scarnati filed a brief blaming poor school districts for their own underfunding. Read the joint news release by ELC and the Public Interest Law Center here.
On January 19, 2018, ELC joined 23 other organizations, including teachers, other school workers, school administrators, school boards, advocates, faith-based organizations, and non-partisan civic organizations such as the League of Women Voters, to oppose PA Senate Bill 2. The Bill is a school voucher proposal masquerading as an Education Savings Account program. The Bill is a direct attack on public education itself, because it would divert tax dollars to private and religious schools that have no accountability to the public and no obligation to provide (for example) special education, other services to children with disabilities, or services to English Language Learners. Read the letter here and please call your PA Senator to help protect public education in Pennsylvania by urging him or her to oppose this regressive proposal.
On October 20, 2017, ELC released a statement on the Pa. Department of Education’s finding that the Philadelphia School District violated the rights of at least 800 incoming Kindergarten students. Read the news release here.