In 2014, six school districts, two statewide organizations, and several families and petitioners collectively filed a lawsuit against the Pa. Department of Education for its failure to properly allocate funds and resources.
The group claims "decades of inadequate, inequitable school funding in Pennsylvania," according to the case brief. Specifically, they challenge the state of Pa. education on two grounds: the state General Assembly has not fulfilled its obligation to ensure a quality public education system; the state adopts a discriminatory funding system that disadvantages students living in low-income and low-property value neighborhoods.
The six school districts -- Greater Johnstown, School District of Lancaster, Panther Valley, Shenandoah Valley, Wilkes Barre, and William Penn -- are presenting the same argument, but using different evidence from their experiences in each school district.
In Greater Johnstown, children enter Kindergarten with below-average numeracy skills. According to a media release on the trial, the school district divides its students by ability, but limited resources are available to improve student performance at lower-achieving levels.
The School District of Lancaster claims inadequate funds to provide English-Language instruction for the large population of non-English speaking students. Three elementary schools and one middle school are not allocated enough funds for air-conditioning, causing the cancellation of classes this past August, according to the media release.
Panther Valley School District argues that low wages and poor working conditions have resulted in staffing shortages, with many teachers transferring out of the district.
In Shenandoah Valley, the district claims that high district taxes drastically outweigh the funds devoted to public education. According to the media release, limited resources amount to two staff members working multiple staff positions and no accessible technology for students.
Wilkes Barre School District also claims insufficient resource allocation. The media release references bitterly cold classrooms, limited textbooks, and out-of-date science equipment.
In William Penn School District, students enter school with below-average reading skills. According to the media release, the district lacks funding to employ reading specialists. The release mentions a student account of hanging wires, a locked library, overcrowded cafeterias, and over-expended staff.
The trial will take place in the Pennsylvania Judicial Center in Harrisburg – Courtroom 3002. The trial will also be livestreamed on YouTube. Find the livestream link here.
Opening arguments begin on Fri, Nov. 12, 2021. First witnesses will address the court on Nov. 15. The trial is expected to take several months.