Philly Complaints Process and Litigation


Pa. Dept. of Ed. Claims No Responsibility for Problems in Philadelphia Schools

On October 10th, the state asked the Commonwealth Court to dismiss the lawsuit filed against it for failing to investigate allegations made by public school parents in Philadelphia.

During the 2013-2014 school year, parents and other concerned citizens filed more than 800 complaints with the Pennsylvania Department of Education about curriculum deficiencies in the School District of Philadelphia. The lawsuit, filed in September by the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia on behalf of seven Philadelphia parents and Parents United for Public Education, challenges the failure of the Pennsylvania Department of Education to investigate parental allegations. The allegations tell of a system that has been defunded to the bare bones, with schools packing as many as 45 students into a single classroom, dropping foreign language and physical education classes, eliminating guidance counselors, and cutting out other curricular basics.

Today, the department claimed that such issues do not concern “curriculum deficiencies” and therefore the state can ignore these allegations, and doesn’t even need to write back to the parents. In addition, the state claims that it is within its authority to refer the allegations to the School District for investigation, even though the allegations are about the School District.

“It is outrageous for the state to disclaim any responsibility for these problems,” said Benjamin Geffen, staff attorney at the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia. “The state’s failure to fully fund public education in Philadelphia and in districts across the state is the real reason our students must contend with grim conditions when they walk into schools each day.”

The court has not yet set a schedule for this case. Attorneys for the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia note they will encourage the court to move this case along quickly.