With No Appeal from Respondents, Petitioners in Pa. Fair Funding Case Discuss Next Steps
HARRISBURG, Pa. (ErieNewsNow) - Respondents in the Pennsylvania fair funding trial will not appeal a February Commonwealth Court decision that ruled the state’s education funding system is unconstitutional.
Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward (R-39) and Majority Leader Joe Pittman (R-41) issued the following statement Monday after announcing there will be no appeal.
“We recognize the perspective of the court and appreciate the necessity for educational opportunities for all children throughout the commonwealth. This ruling provides an opportunity for meaningful changes to move Pennsylvania’s education system into the 21st century. In order to evolve our approach to school funding and ensure fairness for our students, further modifications and an examination of ways to streamline services must be explored. Engaging in a holistic approach which finds an appropriate balance between addressing the needs of students and respecting the ability of taxpayers to pay the costs is vital. As we continue this conversation and our work to address the court’s ruling, we must also step back and look at ways to further empower parents in the education of their children. Every child has unique needs which must be considered in order to provide a strong educational foundation for all students across the commonwealth.”
The deadline for legislative leaders to appeal the decision was Friday at midnight. The 15-month trial concluded in favor of petitioners who argued the state failed to provide all children with a thorough, effective and contemporary public education. The 800-page ruling found that students in school districts with low property values and incomes are deprived of the same resources and opportunities of children in wealthier ones.
“The court has made it clear that a constitutionally compliant system is one that addresses both entrenched inequities and the adequacy of state funding. By declining to appeal, state leaders have committed to fulfilling their constitutional obligation and to changing the life outcomes of generations of public school students,” said Maura McInerney, Legal Director at the Education Law Center.
Petitioners say it’s time to restructure school funding and ensure it is equitable in every corner of the commonwealth.
“Legislative leaders must construct a school system that drives sufficient dollars to students with the highest needs. It is a system that establishes adequacy targets for each of our school districts to ensure sufficient basic education funding so that all children have access to qualified teachers, sufficient staff and a 21st century education,” said McInerney.
“It’s time to get to work,” said Dan Urevick-Ackelsberg, a Senior Attorney for the Public Interest Law Center. “It’s time to get about devising how much funding is needed to meet the requirements that the constitution requires and then committing to meet those funding targets. And that work can start through something called the Basic Education Funding Commission,” he added.
Urevick-Ackelsberg says it's up to lawmakers and the Basic Education Funding Commission to do more than simply divide the pie. He says it's about meeting what’s required in the state constitution.
“It's really going to be up to that commission, at least in regard to basic education funding, to do this once and for all. We simply can't wait any longer to get this right,” said Urevick-Ackelsberg.
Petitioners say while basic education funding is the state’s biggest responsibility, a remedy must also address special education, pre-k and school facilities.