PA Supreme Court revives school funding suit

My PSEA Login



PA Supreme Court revives school funding suit

Voice: November 2017

Reversing years of precedent, the state Supreme Court has given new life to a lawsuit arguing that the state courts should be able to weigh in on whether the state Legislature is fulfilling its obligation to fund public education.

The court reversed a Commonwealth Court ruling in 2015 that threw out the case. The Commonwealth Court’s opinion said that the case raised political questions that were beyond the scope of the judiciary. That ruling was historically consistent with other challenges that the state was not meeting its obligation under a section of the Pennsylvania Constitution stating, “… the General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education …’’

The case now returns to Commonwealth Court.

PSEA President Dolores McCracken was pleased with the Supreme Court decision, but urged elected officials not to wait for a court ruling and to continue with the progress that has been made on school funding – a new funding formula and efforts by Gov. Tom Wolf to reverse nearly $1 billion in school funding cuts the General Assembly approved in 2011.

“We have more work to do,’’ McCracken said. “The courts may end up being involved in resolving this issue, but elected officials shouldn’t wait. Pennsylvania currently ranks 46th in the nation in state funding of public schools and dead last in equity.’’

The majority ruling sending the case back to Commonwealth Court stated the courts had an obligation to monitor legislative decisions in accordance with both the state constitution’s requirement of a thorough and efficient system of education, and the lawsuit’s contention that poorer districts are being discriminated against.

Plaintiffs in the case include the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools, the NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference, and the William Penn, Panther Valley, Lancaster, Greater Johnstown, Wilkes-Barre Area, and Shenandoah Valley school districts.