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Pennsylvania Supreme Court reinstates suit challenging school funding

Sept. 28, 2017
A lawsuit brought by school districts and others contends the state's funding formula does not distribute funds fairly.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has revived a lawsuit that contends the state is failing in its obligation to adequately fund public schools.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the state Supreme Court’s 5-2 ruling reversed a 2015 decision by a lower court that rejected the challenge to how the state allocates funds to schools.

The case returns to Commonwealth Court, which had dismissed it on grounds that the lawsuit raised political questions that were not appropriate for the judiciary to settle.

The majority opinion by Justice David Wecht says courts should not duck their responsibility to monitor the General Assembly’s decisions, both concerning the state constitution’s requirement of a thorough and efficient education and the lawsuit’s allegations that poorer districts are being treated unfairly.

The case was brought by school districts, parents, students and others.

In a dissent, Chief Justice Thomas Saylor says legislation enacted by the General Assembly — such as the funding system of public schools — is presumed to be valid and should be overturned only if it clearly violates the state constitution.

Jennifer Clarke, executive director for the Public Interest Law Center, part of the legal team that represents the plaintiffs, says the decision may result in better public education in Pennsylvania.

“It gives the children a chance to have their day in court and present evidence,” Clarke says. “And what this is saying is, this is a constitutional right, this is a constitutional mandate — it’s not a political question.”

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