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City files ‘friend of court’ brief in school funding lawsuit

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

The city of Philadelphia filed a “friend of the court” brief Tuesday in support of the lawsuit against the state charging that the system for funding public education in Pennsylvania is unconstitutional and unfair.

The city’s brief focuses on the failure of the General Assembly to adequately fund and support school districts in need, with special emphasis on damage to the School District of Philadelphia.

It was filed by acting City Solicitor Sozi Pedro Tulante, who said, “only this Court’s intervention can provide Philadelphia’s children with the education funding they deserve from the state.”

“Circumstances have now made clear that this Court can no longer stay its hand; this case should be returned to the Commonwealth Court for additional proceedings.”

The Public Interest Law Center and the Education Law Center-PA filed the lawsuit in Commonwealth Court in late 2014. The lawsuit focuses on the state government’s constitutional requirement to provide “a thorough and efficient system of public education.” Judges dismissed the case, ruling that school funding is a matter for the state’s legislative and executive branches to decide. The plaintiffs last May filed an appeal with the state’s highest court, which has not yet set a date to hear oral arguments.

The suit is on behalf of six school districts and seven parents, along with the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools and the NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference.

Jennifer Clarke, executive director of PILC, thanked the city for supporting the lawsuit. “As the budget impasse continues into its eighth month with no end in sight, this suit is more important than ever to ensure Pennsylvania’s students have long-term access to the high-quality public education they need to become engaged citizens,” she said in a statement.

Councilwoman Helen Gym also released a statement applauding Mayor Kenney and Solicitor Tulante for the action. “This lawsuit is another step in the collective effort to bring justice to our public education system,” she said.

Andre Dienner is an intern at the Notebook.

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