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Changing course, governor asks courts to rule on Pa. education funding lawsuit

Republicans accuse him of playing politics in an election year. He is running for re-election, and at least one legislative leader, Mike Turzai, is vying to oppose him.

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

Pennsylvania’s Gov. Wolf has changed his mind regarding a high-profile school funding lawsuit.

More than three years after a coalition of districts and advocates first sued the state, Wolf now says the courts should determine whether the commonwealth’s education funding system violates the state constitution.

And he thinks that decision should come sooner rather than later.

Wolf filed a brief Thursday asking for a case before the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court to move forward, a notable move because the governor — named as a defendant in the case — initially opposed the landmark lawsuit.

Even though Wolf has staunchly advocated for increased education funding — and even though the coalition that brought the suit includes some of his traditional allies — he had argued that funding decisions should be left to the legislative and executive branches.

During a 2016 hearing in the case, Wolf’s lawyers were a part of a defense team that argued that “no individual child has any specific right to an education at all” under the state constitution.

They argued that the legislature must only set up “a system” of education in order to be compliant with the law and that any debate beyond “opening school doors” is a “policy question.”

The state court system has historically agreed that the judicial branch should stay out of education funding debates. But, in September, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed precedent and said the matter was a “justiciable” issue.

That decision propelled the suit into uncharted territory, and Wolf now believes the courts ought to rule on the legality of Pennsylvania’s school funding system.

Read the rest of this story at NewsWorks