Declaratory Judgement Provides Useful Information on State’s Oversight Responsibility

The School Reform Commission, the School District of Philadelphia, and the Pennsylvania Department of Education have submitted a declaratory judgment against the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

The judgment provides useful information including the State’s oversight responsibility for educational quality, admissions about the poor financial state of the school district, and how to rectify fiscal stability.

In particular, the judgment mentions how the Secretary is empowered to declare the School District in distress upon a finding that “the school district … has failed or will fail to provide for an educational program in compliance with the provisions of this act, regulations of the State Board of Education or standards of the Secretary of Education.”

Further investigation has found that a lack of funding for the 2013-2014 fiscal year caused the School District to make drastic cuts to its staff for the second time in three years. As a result, during the 2013-2014 school year, the number of guidance counselors, school nurses, teachers and school police were at rock-bottom levels; the ranks of assistant principals had been thinned to levels that are not sustainable; cutbacks to cleaning and facilities maintenance negatively affected school environments; budgets for books and school supplies also suffered; and advanced placement courses, career and technical education programs, as well as art classes all had to be curtailed.

Although additional funding received after the schools opened last year allowed the School District to ameliorate the staffing crisis to a limited degree, the staffing levels last year were, and at the present time still are, woefully inadequate.

Plaintiffs, the School Reform Commission, the School District of Philadelphia, and the Pennsylvania Department of Education, respectfully request new economic terms and conditions under the law governing impasse.

Click here to read the full declaratory judgment