Education Funding

Pa. Public School Funding Lawsuit May Head To Trial

Aug 22, 2018
image: AP

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A lawsuit that claims Pennsylvania is failing to provide students with an adequate education will likely head to trial.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports the Commonwealth Court rejected Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati's request for a dismissal Monday. The 2014 suit filed by the Education Law Center and Public Interest Center claims the state is violating its constitution and that low-wealth districts are hurt by the formula.
Scarnati had argued Pennsylvania's school funding formula was satisfactory.

Gov. Tom Wolf signing an anti-discrimination executive order in April 2016.
Courtesy of Pa. Dept. of General Services

Should private schools that benefit from Pennsylvania’s tax credit programs adhere to the rules of the public system?

That debate often revolves around school accountability because the state does not require private schools to administer and publish the results of standardized tests.

But the question has also cropped up in recent weeks around an entirely different issue — employee discrimination.

Students at an art class in Overbrook High School in Philadelphia in 2016. State Senator Vincent Hughes has cited Overbrook as an example of a school in need of repair.
Emily Cohen for WHYY

Pennsylvania’s system for funding school construction projects is old.

How old, you ask?

Current statute requires school districts submit their proposals in microficheformat.

“[Anything] that mentions microfiche is probably worth revisiting and looking to update,” said Pedro Rivera, Pennsylvania’s secretary of education.

Farmland on the road that runs between Titusville and Corry School Districts.
Kevin McCorry / Keystone Crossroads

In the past, the Keystone Crossroads reporting project, which WPSU is a part of, has looked at the issues facing education in cities. Kevin McCorry is the education reporter and the editor of the project.

Farmland on the outskirts of the Titusville School District (Kevin McCorry/WHYY)
Kevin McCorry / Keystone Crossroads

They contorted their faces in a howl. With eyes bulging, mouths twisted, veins popping, the Titusville High School senior class, cheerleaders screeching out orders, filled the gymnasium with frenzied intensity as they bellowed out the name of their school mascot, letter by letter — rattling the grandstands and reaching for their maximum decibel.

“What’s that spell?” a girl screamed.

“Rockets!” the seniors answered. “Rockets! Rockets!”

Few issues in contemporary democracy are so important as the future of public education. Democracy, our founding fathers believed, can thrive only if the citizens who consent to be governed are educated and engaged, and are capable of understanding the challenges that we all face together. When education fails, so does democracy. 

A current lawsuit alleges that Pennsylvania has broken its constitutional obligation to provide a "thorough and efficient system of public education."  As part of a collaborative series for NPR, the new education reporter for Keystone Crossroads has been looking into education funding.  WPSU's Emily Reddy talked with Kevin McCorry, who says there are huge funding disparities among Pennsylvania's 500 school districts