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Pa. sued for failing to provide fair, ‘thorough and efficient’ school system

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

[Updated 11/16 with complete, final version of complaint]

A long-anticipated lawsuit was filed today, charging state officials with failing to provide an adequate education system as required by the Pennsylvania constitution.

Suing the state are six school districts, parents from five districts (including Philadelphia), the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools (PARSS), and the NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference. They are represented by attorneys from the Education Law Center and the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia.

In a statement, they say they are taking legal action because "state officials have adopted an irrational school funding system that does not deliver the essential resources students need and discriminates against children based on where they live and the wealth of their communities."

The plaintiffs say that the state has — through the development of state standards — clearly delineated what content children need to learn to obtain a quality education. They say the state has also determined the cost in each district in the state for students to acquire that knowledge — through a costing-out study conducted in 2006. But they argue that state officials are failing to provide the funding to ensure that students in all districts have adequate resources to meet the standards. For example, a majority of high school students in the state have been unable to pass the recently instituted Keystone Exams, which will be a requirement for graduation for the class of 2017.

The suit maintains that the state is failing to meet its constitutional obligation to provide a "thorough and efficient" education system and is violating its equal protection clause by operating an education system with wildly disparate levels of funding among school districts.

Named as respondents in the complaint are Gov. Corbett, the state education secretary, and Republican leaders of the state House and Senate.

The plaintiffs have developed a list of questions and answers about the case.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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