Are We There Yet? The Mechanics and Politics of Arriving at Equity in Education Funding
The Pennsylvania Constitution (Article 3, Section 14) establishes that “The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth.” In February 2023, in its ruling on William Penn School District, et al. v. Pennsylvania Dept. of Education, et al., the Commonwealth Court found that the General Assembly had failed to do just that.
The Court was persuaded by the plaintiffs’ arguments that the Pennsylvania Constitution grants a “right to education” and that equitable funding was essential to the delivery of that right. Yet, the Court deferred on the question of remedy, instead delegating the design and delivery of that remedy back to the General Assembly.
Nearly a year since the Commonwealth Court’s historic decision, and a decade since the initial filing of William Penn School District v. Pennsylvania Department of Education, what can the journey to this moment tell us about the future of education funding across the Commonwealth and, right here, in Philadelphia? How is the General Assembly responding to this decision? What are the challenges in defining and implementing the remedy called for by the Court? And, what, if any, role will the legal community and courts continue to play in ensuring “a thorough and efficient system of public education?”
On Thursday, January 18, PEF was honored to host Michael Churchill, Of Counsel at Public Interest Law Center, Deborah Gordon Klehr, Executive Director of Education Law Center-PA and Jared Solomon, State Representative for the 202nd District and Former Member of PA House Education Committee.
The panelists along with moderator Farah Jimenez, PEF’s President and CEO, discussed the historic decision of Pennsylvania’s school funding lawsuit, the recent report out from the Basic Education Funding Commission, and what comes next.
Ed Compact attendees were provided key details of the case, some insights into the Court’s ruling, considerations and other complexities along the road to remedy in achieving fair funding, including what this means specifically for Philadelphia schools and students! Plus, some interesting perspective on state legislation was provided by PA Congressman Solomon.
Finally, panelists laid out advocacy opportunities to the audience on how to help support next steps in the transformative increase in Basic Education Funding, to adequately meet the needs of our students.