PENNSYLVANIA — The Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Caucus is celebrating the Commonwealth Court’s ruling in William Penn School District, et al. v. Pennsylvania Department of Education, et al., that Pennsylvania’s system of funding public education is unconstitutional.
Judge Renée Cohn Jubelirer, President Judge of the Commonwealth Court, this week ruled that “Petitioners satisfied their burden of establishing the Education Clause was clearly, palpably, and plainly violated because of a failure to provide all students with access to a comprehensive, effective, and contemporary system of public education that will give them a meaningful opportunity to succeed academically, socially, and civically.”
“[This] historic victory affirms what students and educators in Pennsylvania have long known: Pennsylvania’s system of funding public education is failing to meet the needs of every student and is unconstitutional,” said Democratic Leader Jay Costa. “This is an enormous step towards ensuring that every single young person, of every race, class, and ZIP code, receives a fully-funded public school experience, including well-compensated educators and ample learning resources.”
Judge Jubelirer’s order states that: “Education is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Pennsylvania Constitution to all school-age children residing in the Commonwealth.”
“This is a major victory for the students, their teachers, and for all Pennsylvanians. The ruling makes clear what we’ve been raising the alarm about and fighting to fix for many years: Pennsylvania’s school funding system is unfair, inequitable, inadequate and has been hurting our students. All of our children deserve a 21st century education,” said Democratic Senate Appropriations Chairman Vincent Hughes, who represents parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery counties.
Judge Jubelirer concludes her nearly 800-page decision by handing the General Assembly a clear charge. “All witnesses agree that every child can learn. It is now the obligation of the Legislature, Executive Branch, and educators, to make the constitutional promise a reality in this Commonwealth.”
“[The] decision is no surprise – if you talk to students, families, and educators – they know that our schools have never been fully or fairly funded,” said Democratic Senate Education Chair Lindsey M. Williams. “We have the funding necessary to fulfill our constitutional promise to all of Pennsylvania’s students. It’s far past time for the legislature to prioritize students over their political agendas and create a system where all students have access to the quality public education they are guaranteed by our state constitution. I urge my colleagues in the General Assembly to get to work now.”
“I’m proud that the Senate Democratic Caucus has long been united around the urgent need to address the funding crisis plaguing Pennsylvania’s public schools, especially those serving students in low-income areas,” continued Senator Costa. “Now that the Court has ruled, the caucus looks forward to continuing the fight to deliver necessary resources to the learners who need it most.”
This week’s ruling is a long time coming. In 2014, six school districts, six sets of parents, and two advocacy groups filed the lawsuit. The trial began in Commonwealth Court in November 2021 and arguments concluded in July 2022.
The ruling in its entirety can be read here.
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