Attorneys made their closing arguments in the trial for full and equitable school funding for all Pennsylvania schools this past Thursday in Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg.
Just to refresh your memories, the plaintiffs in this case are six school districts, seven parents, the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools (PARSS) and the NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference, whereas the only defendants contesting the plaintiffs’ claim are the members of Republican caucuses in the two houses of Pennsylvania’s General Assembly.
While Katrina Robson, an attorney for the plaintiffs, argued that the state has failed to meet its constitutional obligation of providing a thorough and efficient education. (B. EDUCATION, § 14. Public school system.), the Republicans’ lawyers rebutted that the PA Constitution also stipulates that “the General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support“ of such a system actually means that the General Assembly determines what constitutes “thorough and efficient.” The logic that would lead one to such a conclusion could only come from lawyers who several years ago argued that “students have "no fundamental right to equality in education" under the State Constitution.”
The defense attorneys also argued that the plaintiffs did not meet their burden of proof that all underfunded school districts were harmed by the state’s actions, because they simply cherry-picked certain districts, which were not characteristic of Pennsylvania in its entirety, Ms. Robson countered that expert testimony provided a statistical analysis of how poor districts are generally negatively impacted by insufficient funding.
While GOP lawyers argued that test scores do not reflect educational quality, Robson referred the judge to a statement by House Speaker Brian Cutler, where he used the most recent standardized test data to indicate learning loss statewide.
It is difficult to know what the outcome of this case will be. The plaintiffs clearly presented the stronger case, and the judge – Renee Cohn Jubilirer – has appeared to be impartial during the proceedings. She is, however, a Republican, and there is always the worry that she may vote to appease her party rather than to side with the law. Whatever the final verdict is in the case, it will definitely be appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
But here’s what you can do:
FIVE MINUTES FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE: PNN's Education Action Committee and Blue Pennsylvania are teaming up with organizations and concerned parents all across our state to show our support for education funding that is "thorough and efficient" as defined by our state's Constitution.
We will be showing that support between 7-7:30 PM on Tuesday, March 15th by joining a Zoom where we will get the latest information on the takeaways from the funding trial.
During this call, please display a sign calling for fair funding - e.g. THOROUGH AND EFFICIENT, FULL AND FAIR FUNDING, EVERY CHILD DESERVES A DECENT EDUCATION, ADEQUATE FUNDING FOR EVERY PUBLIC SCHOOL.
We will be taking screen shots during this time of both you and your signs – particularly between 7:15 – 7:20 PM
If you are interested in participating, please click here.
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