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Advancing Equitable and Adequate School Funding in PA

Wednesday, June 23, 2021
2:00pm - 3:15pm EDT
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Video Conference
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Philanthropy Network Greater Philadelphia, Grantmakers of Western PA, and Northeastern Pennsylvania Grantmakers invite funders and practitioners to join us on Wednesday, June 23rd from 2:00 – 3:15 PM to discuss the lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania’s school funding system.

Pennsylvania’s school funding is heavily reliant on local property values, which has resulted in deep inequality and inequity that disproportionately affect students of color. Black and Latino students are concentrated in the least wealthy districts, with 50 percent of Black students and 40 percent of Latino students attending schools in the lowest 20 percent of local wealth. A study released in October 2020 found that 428 of PA’s 500 districts — educating 86% of public-school students — lacked adequate funding in 2018-19, with a shortfall of at least $4.6 billion. The state’s inadequate and inequitable funding impacts students in rural, urban, and suburban districts and districts across the Commonwealth.

The Education Law Center-PA and Public Interest Law Center filed a lawsuit in 2014 in Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court arguing that Pennsylvania’s current school funding system does not meet the standard set by the state constitution. After years of procedural arguments, this historic lawsuit is on track to go to trial this September.  Plaintiffs will argue that underinvestment by the state and  overreliance on local property taxes have caused widespread inadequacy and deep inequality in PA public schools. The suit is asking for a court order that will force the legislature to comply with the state constitution and ensure all students receive access to a ”thorough and efficient” public education.

But the state does not have to wait for a court order. The General Assembly can address fair school funding on its own. Complementing the fair funding lawsuit, PA Schools Work is a coalition of organizations from across Pennsylvania representing urban, suburban and rural communities who work together to advocate for adequate and equitable funding to benefit PA public schools, their students, and the communities they serve.

During this session, the Education Law Center will provide an overview of education funding in Pennsylvania, the status of the pending lawsuit, and some possible solutions. We will also hear from funders and advocates who are supporting this effort.

Thank you to Philanthropy Network's Education and Small Funders communities of practice for helping us organize this meeting.

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