The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court will hear oral arguments from the lawsuit, William Penn School District v. PA Department of Education, that challenges inequitable and inadequate school funding in Pennsylvania on Wednesday morning.
Seven families, six school districts and statewide organizations filed the lawsuit against Pennsylvania state officials for violating the state’s constitution. The petitioners believed the state failed to adequately and equitably fund public education, but the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned an earlier dismissal by the Commonwealth Court in 2017, according to a press release issued by The Public Interest Law Center and the Education Law Center.
Pennsylvania Sen. Joe Scarnati and Rep. Mike Turzai have tried to dismiss the case or further delay the trial. Scarnati believes the decision is up for dispute, while Turzai argues that education is not an important or fundamental right, according to the press release.
“The right to education is an important right,” Michael Churchill of the Public Interest Law Center said in the press release. “The legislative leaders must stop trampling on that right and start respecting it. None of the objections presented to the court have merit, and while they waste time, students’ futures are at stake.”
Regarding education funding, Pennsylvania ranks 47 out of 50 states, according to U.S. census data. The case was filed three years ago, and despite a new funding formula and small increases in education funding, not much has been done to affect the big picture, according to the press release.
“Time is of the essence. Pennsylvania’s school children are suffering due to the lack of state support,” Maura McInerney, legal director at the Education Law Center said in the press release. “Every day the legislature delays fulfilling its constitutional obligation is a day in which hundreds of thousands of students across the Commonwealth remain in grossly underfunded schools. They need more resources right now, not years from now.”