School Funding Lawsuit


Recapping Week Two of the PA School Funding Trial

December 4, 2021–The second week of witness testimony in the Pennsylvania school funding trial featured three days of testimony from Pennsylvania’s former top K-12 official, and an introduction to Greater Johnstown School District, one of six districts challenging that state’s inadequate and inequitable funding for public schools.

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On Tuesday, Wednesday, and most of Thursday, Matthew Stem, the former deputy secretary for elementary and secondary education for the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), testified. Stem described the state’s academic standards as appropriately rigorous and highlighted the significant disparities between racial and socio-economic groups in how students measure up to these standards, linked to a lack of resources.

“There’s an urgent need to ensure that our school systems are providing the conditions for students to be successful,” he said, “and there is an urgent need to identify the reasons why we see groups that are performing so far behind the majority.” Stem affirmed that, in the view of the PDE, the disparities seen across measures of academic achievement are caused in large part by the conditions that students experience in schools and a lack of needed resources. He cited “decades of systemic inequities in the commonwealth.”

Starting late Thursday, Superintendent Amy Arcurio of Greater Johnstown School District took the stand. Her community, like many others in Pennsylvania, she shared, was left “in dire straits” by the decline of the coal and steel industry. “We’re desperately trying to reinvent our city,” Arcurio said on Thursday. “We need our students to be there for the rebirth of that economy.”

Court will resume at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 7, and Amy Arcurio will return to the stand at 9:30 as cross-examination begins. There are no proceedings on Monday, Dec. 6. We intend to call the following witnesses over the course of next week:

  • Stephanie Kobal, first-grade teacher at the Johnstown Elementary School

  • Eric Kocsis, business manager for Greater Johnstown School District from 2016 to 2020

  • Brian Waite, Superintendent of Shenandoah Valley School District

  • Damaris Rau, Superintendent of the School District of Lancaster

  • Matthew Przywara, Chief Financial Officer of the School District of Lancaster

  • Amanda Aikens, elementary school teacher at King Elementary in the School District of Lancaster

You can follow along via the Court’s livestream, which we will link to on page each day. No recording or archiving is allowed.

We hope you will continue to follow the case, and continue to demand that our leaders in Harrisburg live up to their constitutional responsibility to ensure that all students, regardless of their community’s wealth, can receive the quality public education they need to prepare for life in the 21st century.

“Funding is a very important factor for improving outcomes…I think it’s very, very unlikely that Pennsylvania will be able to close the achievement gaps that we’ve seen for decades without additional funding, particularly for schools with high percentages of students in poverty.” – Matthew Stem, former deputy secretary for elementary and secondary education at the PA Dept. of Education

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