School Funding Lawsuit


Recapping week one of the PA school funding trial

November 20, 2021–The first full week of the Pennsylvania school funding trial in Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg is in the books, as our first four witnesses took the stand in this historic case.

Earlier in the week, we heard detailed discussion of the effect of state underfunding in one of the petitioner districts in this case: Panther Valley, a rural district serving four small towns in Carbon and Schuylkill Counties, in Eastern Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal region. Panther Valley taxpayers pay the 10th highest local rates in the state, but the district is still unable to provide its students with the materials, personnel, and facilities they need.

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Superintendent David McAndrew spoke first, spending two days on the stand, followed by Tara Yuricheck, a 5th grade history teacher.

Then, we looked at the big picture of Pennsylvania’s school funding system: How it is set out in the state constitution, and what our Commonwealth’s system looks like now. Professor Derek Black of University of South Carolina Law School discussed the history of the education clause in Pennsylvania’s constitution.

Dr. Matthew Kelly, a school finance expert from the Penn State College of Education, shared his analysis of Pennsylvania’s school funding system, which found that its schools are collectively underfunded by $4.6 billion according to a benchmark in state law, and that the state has allowed deep inequities in resources and performance to persist between the lowest wealth and high-wealth schools. He said many school districts lack the funding they need to be able to give their students a chance to meet state standards – particularly low-wealth districts that simply cannot raise enough money on their own.

There is a break in the trial for Thanksgiving week. We will hear from more of our witnesses when the trial resumes on Monday, Nov. 29. You can follow along via the court’s livestream on YouTube–we will post each day’s link at No recording or archiving is allowed.

“Superintendent McAndrew reported on conditions in Panther Valley schools. He shared that in his elementary school, 75 kindergarteners share one toilet. His high school locker room doesn’t have working showers. His elementary school has a roof, but it has leaked for years.”

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