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Parents file suit against state about school conditions

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

Seven parents of District students filed a lawsuit in Commonwealth Court in September, asserting that the state Department of Education unlawfully neglected to investigate reports of “massive curriculum deficiencies” within the District.

The lawsuit, which was filed by the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia on behalf of Parents United for Public Education and the seven parents, indicates that 825 complaints were submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Education in the 2013-14 school year. But according to Amy Laura Cahn, a staff attorney at PILCOP, those claims were either dismissed as local issues in generic form letters or not addressed at all.

Under Pennsylvania Code 22 Section 4.81, Cahn said, acting Education Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq is obligated to investigate all allegations of curriculum deficiencies addressed to the state Department of Education.

The conditions in schools, Cahn said, have included “alarming levels of overcrowding such that teachers can no longer walk between desks to interact with individual students, increasingly limited curricular offerings, a distressing lack of counselors, and squalid and insufficient toilet facilities.”

Parents said these problems stem from the extensive budget cuts that were made throughout the District because of a lack of state funding. Officials with the Education Law Center said that a separate suit about education funding is forthcoming.

Christianne Kapps, whose daughter attends Philadelphia High School for Creative & Performing Arts, said she has filed numerous complaints with the District, two of which are included in the lawsuit. She said that her daughter’s classrooms lacked crucial resources such as desks and that the school did not provide a physical education class that students needed in order to graduate.

“My daughter has always been highly motivated to go to college,” said Kapps. “I don’t want her to be shortchanged because of where we live.”

Parents and teachers can continue to submit their complaints to myphillyschools.com.

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