Trial over Pennsylvania education funding begins
The state Commonwealth Court trial over whether Pennsylvania's public education funding system is unconstitutional begins Friday.
State of play: Seven years ago, six school districts, advocacy groups, and parents filed a lawsuit accusing state officials and the General Assembly of failing their constitutional duty to provide a "thorough and efficient" education system.
- They argue that the state isn't providing enough money to ensure students have the resources to meet academic standards.
Context: Local real estate taxes make up a lot of the money spent on public education, which results in wealthier areas being able to raise more funds.
- Generally, the state provides more money per student to districts with less wealth to help fill those gaps.
What they're saying: The Public Interest Law Center, one of the plaintiffs, argues that Pennsylvania schools are underfunded by more than $4.6 billion, which affects more than 400 of the state's 500 districts.
- The center also says wealthy districts spend on average $4,800 more per student than poor districts.
The other side: In pre-trial briefs, defendants — including Gov. Tom Wolf and the state Department of Education — argued that Pennsylvania meets its constitutional obligation when it provides money every year to school districts.
- They also argue that any school funding changes need to go through the typical legislative process.
- Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman noted Pennsylvania ranks 7th in per-pupil spending in the nation.
1 interesting thing: Politically, the most interesting defendant is Gov. Wolf, who has long advocated for more educational funding. Wolf originally opposed the lawsuit going to trial at all but changed his position in 2018.
- He touted millions of dollars in increased spending in this year's budget.
What's ahead: The trial could last several weeks.
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