Education Funding

Court Dismisses Lawsuit Challenging Pa.'s ‘Irrational’ School Funding System

By Jackie Mader — April 23, 2015 1 min read
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The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has dismissed a lawsuit filed last year that alleged the state has failed to provide all students with an appropriate education, according to an article by the Philadelphia Daily News.

The lawsuit, which was filed in November by a coalition of parents, organizations, and urban and rural school districts called the state’s funding system “irrational” and said it “does not deliver the essential resources students need, and discriminates against children based on where they live and the wealth of their communities.” Pennsylvania is one of only a few states that does not have a school funding formula, which means per-pupil funding varies greatly by district and comes largely from property tax revenue. According to the Daily News, some lawmakers are currently working to propose a funding formula to provide more equitable funding to districts.

Nearly 30 percent of schools in the state are rural, and about 19 percent of students in Pennsylvania attend those schools, according to a report by the Rural School and Community Trust. The state has one of the highest percentages of rural students with disabilities, and 1 in 3 rural students qualifies for free or reduced-price lunch. About 25 percent of Pennsylvania’s education funds go to rural districts, and those districts spend a significant amount of money on transportation compared to instruction, which the report said is “a financial drain compounded by the relatively small revenue provided by the state.”

On Tuesday, the Commonwealth Court dismissed the lawsuit, saying that the funding issue does not belong in courts and instead is a “legislative policy” matter, according to The Patriot-News. Rural districts across the country have filed lawsuits asking states for more funding, but with varying success. In South Carolina in November, the state’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of more than two-dozen school districts after a 21-year legal battle. Those districts claimed that the state has failed to uphold its constitutional obligation to adequately fund rural and poor schools. In December, a New Jersey Superior Court judge ruled against 16 rural school districts that claimed they have been underfunded compared to more urban districts. Those districts recently appealed the decision.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Rural Education blog.