In a historic victory for students, on February 7, 2023, Commonwealth Court ruled that Pennsylvania’s current school funding system is unconstitutional.
The judge issued a clear directive: “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 case was first filed in 2014 and went to trial in November of 2021. During four months in the courtroom, plaintiffs shared heart wrenching testimony and mountains of data as they made an irrefutable case that Pennsylvania’s current school funding system denies students in low wealth and low income school districts the quality public education that they deserve and that is guaranteed by the Pennsylvania constitution.
This ruling is a decisive win for students on all counts and has the potential to change the lives of millions of students and their families.
We are deeply grateful for the courageous plaintiffs who shared their stories. We are grateful for the attorneys who spent years preparing the case and months in the courtroom. We are grateful for the educators and school staff who dedicate their professional lives and their hearts to teaching public school students. And we are especially grateful for advocates who have stepped up for years taking action to support students.
We will share additional analysis of the 786-page Court ruling from the Education Law Center and Public Interest Law Center when it is available. We will also be sharing additional opportunities for you to take action to support this decision–so please keep an eye out for emails from us in the next few days.
For now, take a moment to read and admire this ruling and imagine what a fully-funded, equitable school funding system that provides all students with the resources they need could mean for millions of children in the commonwealth.
NOW, February 7, 2023, following trial in this matter, Petitioners’ Petition for Review is GRANTED. The Court DECLARES as follows:
1. The Education Clause, article III, section 14 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, requires that every student receive a meaningful opportunity to succeed academically, socially, and civically, which requires that all students have access to a comprehensive, effective, and contemporary system of public education;
2. Respondents have not fulfilled their obligations to all children under the Education Clause in violation of the rights of Petitioners;
3. Education is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Pennsylvania Constitution to all school-age children residing in the Commonwealth;
4. Article III, section 32 of the Pennsylvania Constitution imposes upon Respondents an obligation to provide a system of public education that does not discriminate against students based on the level of income and value of taxable property in their school districts;
5. Students who reside in school districts with low property values and incomes are deprived of the same opportunities and resources as students who reside in school districts with high property values and incomes;
6. The disparity among school districts with high property values and incomes and school districts with low property values and incomes is not justified by any compelling government interest nor is it rationally related to any legitimate government objective; and 3 7. As a result of these disparities, Petitioners and students attending low wealth districts are being deprived of equal protection of law.
Read the full decision HERE