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Hearing Date Set for PA School Funding Suit

The lawsuit challenging the adequacy of Pennsylvania's public school funding was first filed in 2014. (mromerorta/Pixabay)
The lawsuit challenging the adequacy of Pennsylvania's public school funding was first filed in 2014. (mromerorta/Pixabay)
February 5, 2018

HARRISBURG, Pa. — A lawsuit claiming that Pennsylvania public schools are chronically underfunded is one step closer to going to trial.

The Commonwealth Court set a hearing for March 7 to address preliminary objections filed by state legislators opposing the lawsuit. According to Maura McInerney, legal director at the Education Law Center, Sen. Joe Scarnati shifted responsibility to communities and school districts in his court filing, because in his words, they "have broad discretion in deciding how to spend the funds they receive."

"That local-rule argument was squarely foreclosed by the Supreme Court, who acknowledged that the chronic underfunding of school districts is not a matter of local rule, but a matter of state requirement under the Education Clause of our Constitution,” McInerney said.

She said Scarnati also argued that the low level of state funding for public schools does no harm to the plaintiffs in the case.

McInerney pointed out that in late January, Gov. Tom Wolf filed a response to the lawsuit acknowledging that the state Supreme Court has ruled against previous motions to dismiss it.

"In addition, he has urged the court to enter an order setting a deadline, so that the parties may 'swiftly undertake discovery and move the matter toward resolution,’” McInerney said.

In her view, every delay is depriving children who won't get a second chance to receive the educational opportunities they deserve.

McInerney said she is optimistic that, following the March 7 hearing, the legislators' objections will be dismissed and the case, originally filed in 2014, will finally go to trial.

"We welcome the opportunity to present the case on behalf of students at underfunded school districts across this Commonwealth, who have languished far too long in these underfunded schools,” she said.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA