A Commonwealth Court judge ruled Tuesday that Pennsylvania’s public school funding system is unconstitutional.
Now education advocates are calling on lawmakers and Governor Josh Shapiro to act.
“At this moment the eyes of over a million children are on our state lawmakers, wondering, ‘Are you going to treat my future like a political football?'” said Laura Boyce, executive director of Teach Plus, at a press conference in the Pennsylvania Capitol Rotunda on Thursday.
“It is a clear and decisive victory for school children across Pennsylvania and it’s an issue we’ve been working on for over a decade,” added Deborah Gordon Klehr, executive director of the Education Law Center, and one of the lawyers who brought the case against the state.
The nearly 800-page ruling states there is a more than $4 billion gap that needs to be closed.
Now supporters are calling on the General Assembly and Governor Shapiro to invest in public education.
“In the short term, the Governor and the General Assembly have the opportunity to invest in public education in this year’s budget and in addition, to create a new system that’s adequate and equitable moving forward,” said Gordon Klehr.
The court decision does not provide a framework for how exactly the funding issue is fixed.
State Representative Jesse Topper, who is the Republican chair of the House Education Committee, says he sees this as a bipartisan opportunity to make changes to the way the state delivers education, more than just financially.
“Maybe how many school districts we have is too many, maybe we need to look at expanding tax bases if we do want to have some semblance of a local tax system or maybe we need to look at all the money coming from the state,” said State Rep. Topper.
Governor Josh Shapiro’s office provided this statement to FOX43 in response to the court decision:
“Creating real opportunity for our children begins in our schools, and I believe every child in Pennsylvania should have access to a high-quality education and safe learning environment, regardless of their zip code. My administration is in the process of thoroughly reviewing the Commonwealth Court’s opinion and we are determining next steps.”
Defendants, including Governor Shapiro, have 30 days to appeal the court decision if they choose.
That would be around the same time Governor Shapiro is set to give his first budget address on March 7.
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