Saturday, October 31, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Oct 31: School Funding Lawsuit: Why Tuesday’s PA Supreme Court Election Is Absolutely Crucial

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup October 31, 2015:
School Funding Lawsuit: Why Tuesday’s PA Supreme Court Election Is Absolutely Crucial

The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth.
– Article III, Section 14, of the Pennsylvania Constitution

Job Announcement – Publisher, The Philadelphia Public School Notebook
Application deadline is now November 7th
Founded in 1994, The Philadelphia Public School Notebook is an independent, nonprofit news organization serving thousands of readers who strive for quality and equality in Philadelphia’s public education system. A pioneering resource and voice for the parents, students, teachers, and other members of the community, the Notebook is Philadelphia’s go-to source for news, information, and conversation about its public schools. With six annual print editions and a website updated daily with news and commentary, the Notebook is among the few resources of its kind in the U.S.

"A year ago, an education funding lawsuit was filed by the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia on behalf of an array of plaintiffs. The suit asked for a court-order forcing the General Assembly to ensure access to high quality education.  But in April, a unanimous Commonwealth Court panel dismissed the suit, saying, in essence, this isn't the court's problem to fix. The plaintiffs appealed, and now the suit is before the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court Justices elected next week could well determine the fate of that lawsuit."
6 Reasons Why Tuesday’s Pennsylvania Supreme Court Election Is Absolutely Crucial
The stakes? School funding. Gun control. Redistricting. And so much more.
PhillyMag Citified BY PATRICK KERKSTRA  |  OCTOBER 30, 2015 AT 1:23 PM
Pennsylvania voters get a blessed opportunity to start cleaning up the state’s train wreck of a Supreme Court on Tuesday, when they’ll fill three of seven seats on the high court. This is a huge election, one that could have far-reaching consequences for everything from school funding, to gun control to the political balance of power in Harrisburg.  Theoretically, judges are not partisan actors. But in the real world, a judge’s party affiliation often telegraphs how they’ll rule on a wide array of politically-charged issues. That’s even more true in a state, like Pennsylvania, that elects its judges.  Right now, the court is comprised of three Republicans and two Democrats, with two empty seats. One of the sitting Republicans leaves the bench in January. It's not an exaggeration to say the political balance of the court could be decided for a decade or more, depending on who turns out Tuesday. Justices are elected to 10-year terms, and re-election is easy. The judges chosen for the high court Tuesday will likely be with us for a very long time.

Education Voters Action Fund of PA Supreme Court Endorsements
Education Voters Action Fund of PA October 30, 2015
On Tuesday, November 3rd it is incredibly important that you vote –and your vote will matter. On November 3rd, PA voters will choose 3 new Supreme Court Justices. These justices will be seated when the school funding lawsuit goes before the Supreme Court in 2016 and, as you know, this lawsuit could play a pivotal role in providing sufficient and equitable funding to Pennsylvania students. In addition, the judges elected will all likely play an important role in redistricting and any questions of voter access (i.e. voter ID cases and the like).
Education Voters Action Fund is endorsing Christine DonohueKevin M. Dougherty and,David N. Wecht. All three candidates are qualified and recommended by the PA Bar Association.

"Members of the coalition include the school districts of Lancaster, William Penn, Panther Valley, Greater Johnstown Area and Shenandoah Valley, the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools and the state conference of the NAACP."
Battle over fairness of state education funding heads to Supreme Court
Penn Live By Matt Miller | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on May 20, 2015 at 2:55 PM, updated May 20, 2015 at 2:56 PM
A coalition of parents, school districts and public interest groups filed an appeal Wednesday with Pennsylvania's Supreme Court challenging the Commonwealth Court's dismissal of its lawsuit over state education funding.  Commonwealth Court dismissed the suit against the state Education Department last month after concluding that funding for public education is a matter for the Legislature, not the courts.  The coalition is seeking a revamp of Pennsylvania's education funding system, claiming the Legislature is violating the state constitution by financing public schools through an inequitable formula. The current system creates an imbalance of financing between poor and wealthy districts and jeopardizes the civil rights of disadvantaged students, the alliance contends.

School funding lawsuit headed to the Pa. Supreme Court
BY SOLOMON LEACH, Daily News Staff Writer, 215-854-5903
POSTED: May 22, 2015
A LAWSUIT ACCUSING the state of failing to adequately and equitably fund education is headed to the state Supreme Court.  The plaintiffs, which include six school districts and two statewide organizations, filed an appeal yesterday challenging a Commonwealth Court decision last month to dismiss the suit, claiming that school funding is a function of the Legislature, and therefore not a matter for the courts.  "Our Supreme Court bears the responsibility for ensuring that our most precious constitutional rights are protected. We hope that the high court will agree that this responsibility includes public education, the most important issue facing our commonwealth," Jennifer Clarke, executive director of the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, one of the groups representing the districts, said in a statement.

The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth.
– Article III, Section 14, of the Pennsylvania Constitution
Parents, School Districts Ask PA Supreme Court to Hear School Funding Lawsuit, 9/18/15
Thorough and Efficient website SEPTEMBER 21, 2015 BGRIMALDI
Maura McInerney, Education Law Center-PA, 215-346-6906, 610-331-8125,;  Jennifer Clarke, Public Interest Law Center, 215-870-3797,
Harrisburg, Pa. – In a brief filed Friday, public school parents, school districts, and two statewide associations continued their legal challenge of Pennsylvania’s broken school funding system, telling the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that the availability of a high-quality public education in Pennsylvania will continue to be a “function of community wealth rather than a constitutional guarantee” unless the Court agrees to hear the legal challenge.  The petitioners are asking the court to send the case to a full trial and allow them to present evidence that the state legislature has failed to adequately and equitably fund the state’s public schools, thereby violating the legislature’s constitutional requirement to provide a “thorough and efficient system of public education” and to prohibit discrimination in state programs and services.

Fighting for Fair School Funding
William Penn SD et. al. v. Pa. Dept. of Education et. al. (Pa., 2015)
Education Law Center PA website
On Sept. 20, 2015, public school parents, school districts, and two statewide associations continued their legal challenge of Pennsylvania’s broken school funding system, telling the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that the availability of a high-quality public education in Pennsylvania will continue to be a “function of community wealth rather than a constitutional guarantee” unless the Court agrees to hear the legal challenge.
Read more at ELC and PILC’s website about the case, available here.

"The General Assembly has decided what content children need to learn to obtain a quality education, and they know how much it costs for children to acquire that knowledge. But, state officials have failed to ensure that students in all districts have adequate resources to meet these proficiency standards, such as the Keystone graduation exams."
School Funding Lawsuit
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia website
On November 10, 2014, we filed a lawsuit in Commonwealth Court on behalf of six school districts, seven parents, the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools (PARSS) and the NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference against legislative leaders, state education officials, and the Governor for failing to uphold the General Assembly’s constitutional obligation to provide a system of public education that gives all children in Pennsylvania the resources they need to meet state-imposed academic standards and thrive in today’s world. We are conducting this litigation in partnership with the Education Law Center of Pennsylvania and pro bono counsel from O’Melveny & Myers LLP.

"Some see Wilkinsburg’s plight as evidence of a broken school funding system that shortchanges children from poor families, while others see it as an argument for investing in charter schools instead of trying to turn around dysfunctional school systems.  But there is widespread agreement on one thing: The story unfolding here shows the distance that remains between the ideal of public education as a great equalizer and the reality that many of the nation’s children are still consigned to schools that limit their futures."
In a disadvantaged district, a parable of contemporary American schooling
Washington Post By Emma Brown October 30 at 8:00 AM  
WILKINSBURG, Pa. — The high school in this tiny, impoverished Pittsburgh suburb has long been among the worst in Pennsylvania. Now the school board has decided to close it, along with the town’s only middle school.  Board members say that giving up on the schools is the best thing they can do to give their students a shot at a better education and a better life. But two neighboring school districts declined to take the students on before a third, Pittsburgh Public Schools, found room at one of the city’s lowest-performing high schools, located in one of its poorest neighborhoods.  So in a deal approved this week, Wilkinsburg students are headed for a school that is much like the one they are leaving behind.  Both have a history of chaotic classrooms and academic failure. Students at both schools are overwhelmingly African American, and many suffer from the twin traumas of living in poverty and in violent neighborhoods. Both schools have seen enrollment dwindle as families with wherewithal have fled.

"Nowhere is that gap wider than in Pennsylvania, according to federal data. School districts with the highest poverty rates here receive one-third fewer state and local tax dollars, per pupil, than the most affluent districts. This spring, the new governor has outlined an ambitious plan to address the inequities, but it faces opposition at the statehouse. At the same time, a lawsuit over inadequate school funding is making its way through the courts, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan has called for change."
Pa. schools are the nation’s most inequitable. The new governor wants to fix that.
Washington Post By Emma Brown April 22, 2015
PHILADELPHIA — At Martin Luther King High, a hulking half-full school here, there aren’t enough textbooks to go around. If teachers want to make a photocopy, they have to buy paper themselves. Though an overwhelming majority of students are living in poverty, no social worker is available to help. Private donations allow for some dance and music classes, but they serve just 60 of the school’s 1,200 students.  At Lower Merion High, 10 miles away in a suburb of stately stone homes, copy paper and textbooks are available but are rarely necessary: Each student has a school-provided laptop. A pool allows for lifeguarding classes, and an arts wing hosts courses in photography, ceramics, studio art and jewelry making. The campus has a social worker.  While there always have been inequalities among the nation’s public schools, the gap in spending between public schools in the poorest and most-affluent communities has grown during the past decade.

The brief political life of Supreme Court candidates
WITF Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Oct 29, 2015 4:25 PM
Every time Pennsylvania voters are asked to make their picks in a race for the Supreme Court, they have to indulge in a polite fiction -- one that party leaders and candidates both seem to dislike.  The candidates for justice have a party next to their names, but they must disavow party politics if they make it to the bench. Voters just have to pretend there's no contradiction.  At a recent forum, three candidates for Supreme Court described how they navigate that process.  "Justice serves all, and it's not along party lines," said Commonwealth Court Judge Anne Covey, a Republican.  "I don't ever approach a case a Democrat," said Superior Court, Judge David Wecht, a Democrat. "I don't believe there is a Democratic approach to a case."  "The minute that you're sworn in as a judge, your partisan politics are gone," said another Democrat, Superior Court Judge Christine Donohue.

PA League of Women Voters 2015 General Election Voters Guide for Statewide Judicial Candidates
September 24, 2015

In the Balance : PA Supreme Court 2015
PublicSource 2015 ongoing coverage
PublicSource will be covering this historic Pennsylvania Supreme Court race for three open seats on the seven-member court. We’ll be tracking campaign contributions and television ads, explaining who is trying to tip the balance of the court and how the candidates are spending their money.  If you normally don’t follow politics or don’t have a law degree, that’s OK. We want you to be armed with more knowledge to cast an informed vote on Election Day.

PA Supreme Court 2015: Newspaper endorsement roundup
By Eric Holmberg | PublicSource | Oct. 29, 2015
Voters can be influenced by a variety of endorsements from business, labor and environmental groups.  Other groups, such as the League of Women Voters, ask the candidates questions and release nonpartisan voters’ guides. PublicSource’s nonpartisan voters’ guide will be released on Monday, Nov. 2.  And then there are newspaper editorial boards, which often meet with candidates and make influential endorsements.
Three of the seven seats on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will be up for grabs on Nov. 3, and the remaining members are evenly split 2-2 along party lines.
The three Democrats are Superior Court Judge Christine Donohue, Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas Judge Kevin Dougherty and Superior Court Judge David Wecht.
The three Republicans are Commonwealth Court Judge Anne Covey, Adams County Court of Common Pleas Judge Michael George and Superior Court Judge Judith Olson.
The lone independent candidate is Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas Judge Paul Panepinto.

Mystery donor group fuels attack ads in PA Supreme Court race
By Eric Holmberg | PublicSource | Oct. 28, 2015 412.315.0266
Many familiar organizations gave to Pennsylvanians for Judicial Reform so it could run attack ads against the three Republican candidates for Pennsylvania Supreme Court.  In the past month, the group raised more than $2.2 million from affinity groups representing Philadelphia trial lawyers, teachers’ unions, labor unions and others.  Pennsylvanians for Judicial Reform is an independent expenditure group, meaning they can buy political ads but they cannot coordinate with the candidates or advocate for the election or defeat of a specific candidate.  But there’s an unfamiliar group called PA Alliance that contributed $500,000 to fund the attack ads through Pennsylvanians for Judicial Reform since Sept. 11, making it the second largest contributor behind the Philadelphia trial lawyers.  It gave more than the big labor unions — Service Employees International Union ($488,000) and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees ($400,000) — and more than the state and national teachers’ unions.  With three of the seven seats on the state’s highest court up for grabs and the remaining members split 2-2 along party lines, control of the court will be decided next week.  “It's dreadful the amount of money going into our elections,” said Terry Madonna, pollster at Franklin & Marshall College. “Money's a corrupting influence and it's got to be regulated some way, somehow.”

Constitution Center, Philadelphia Monday, November 2, 2015 at 4 p.m.
Free for Members • $7 teachers & students • $10 public
Become a Member today for free admission to this program and more!
Click here to join and learn more or call 215-409-6767.
Does the Constitution guarantee an “equal education” to every child? What do the U.S. and Pennsylvania Constitutions say about school choice, teacher tenure, standardized testing, and more? The Constitution Center hosts two conversations exploring these questions.
In the first discussion, education policy experts—Donna Cooper of Public Citizens for Children and Youth, Mark Gleason of the Philadelphia School Partnership, Deborah Gordon Klehr of the Education Law Center, and Ina Lipman of the Children's Scholarship Fund Philadelphia—examine the state of Philadelphia public education, what an "equal education" in Philadelphia would look like, and their specific proposals for getting there. They also explain what, if anything, the Pennsylvania state constitution says about these questions, and how state government interacts with local government in setting education policy.
In the second discussion, James Finberg of Altshuler Berzon and Joshua Lipshutz of Gibson Dunn—two attorneys involved in Vergara v. California, a landmark dispute over the legality of teacher retention policies—present the best arguments on both sides and discuss what's next in the case. They also explain what the U.S. Constitution and major Supreme Court cases like Brown v. Board of EducationSan Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez and Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 say about education and our national debates.

WESA Public Forum: Equitable Education Funding Nov. 9, 7 pm  Pittsburgh
WESA By EBAISLEY  October 27, 2015
Governor Tom Wolfe has proposed spending 6.1 billion dollars on basic education, yet Pennsylvania is one of just three states that does not use a formula to distribute funding to local school districts. What is the best and most equitable way to allocate state education funding? How can educators and lawmakers ensure a fair education for all students?
90.5 WESA will convene a "Life of Learning" community forum November 9 at the Community Broadcast Center on the south side.  to discuss the Basic Education Funding Commission’s proposed funding formula as well as strategies used in the state’s history.  Doors open at 6:30; forum starts at 7. It will be recorded for later broadcast. The event is free, but space is limited; registration is recommended.Register online to attend.
Panelists include State Senator Jay Costa, member of the Basic Education Funding Commission; Ron Cowell, President of the Education Policy and Leadership Center;  Linda Croushore, Executive Director of the Consortium for Public Education; and Eric Montarti, Senior Policy Analyst for the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy; and Linda Lane, superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools. 90.5 WESA’s Larkin Page-Jacobs will moderate.
WHAT: Community Forum on Equitable Education Funding
WHEN: November 9, 2015, 7 PM
WHERE: Community Broadcast Center, 67 Bedford Square, Pittsburgh PA 15203
COST: Free. Register to attend.

Register now for the 2015 PASCD 65th Annual Conference, Leading and Achieving in an Interconnected World, to be held November 15-17, 2015 at Pittsburgh Monroeville Convention Center.
The Conference will Feature Keynote Speakers: Meenoo Rami – Teacher and Author “Thrive: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching,”  Mr. Pedro Rivera, Pennsylvania Secretary of Education, Heidi Hayes-Jacobs – Founder and President of Curriculum Design, Inc. and David Griffith – ASCD Senior Director of Public Policy.  This annual conference features small group sessions focused on: Curriculum and Supervision, Personalized and Individualized Learning, Innovation, and Blended and Online Learning. The PASCD Conference is a great opportunity to stay connected to the latest approaches for innovative change in your school or district.  Join us forPASCD 2015!  Online registration is available by visiting <>

NSBA Advocacy Institute 2016; January 24 - 26 in Washington, D.C.
Housing and meeting registration is open for Advocacy Institute 2016.  The theme, “Election Year Politics & Public Schools,” celebrates the exciting year ahead for school board advocacy.  Strong legislative programming will be paramount at this year’s conference in January.  Visit for more information.

PASBO 61st Annual Conference and Exhibits March 8 - 11, 2016
Hershey Lodge and Convention Center, Hershey, Pennsylvania

Interested in letting our elected leadership know your thoughts on education funding, a severance tax, property taxes and the budget?
Governor Tom Wolf, (717) 787-2500

Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Turzai, (717) 772-9943
House Majority Leader Rep. Dave Reed, (717) 705-7173
Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Joe Scarnati, (717) 787-7084
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Jake Corman, (717) 787-1377

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