HARRISBURG, Pa. (Erie News Now) – The Pennsylvania fair funding trial has concluded with closing arguments Thursday evening.
Throughout the majority of the trial, petitioners who filed the suit made their case on what they call the inadequate and inequitable funding of Pennsylvania’s public schools.
The suit was originally filed in 2014 by six school districts, two statewide organizations, and families, who all seek a long-term solution to the commonwealth’s school funding system.
Over 14,000 pages of petitioner testimony argued that the General Assembly has fallen short of its constitutional responsibility to ensure a thorough and efficient system of public education.
Petitioners spent over three months sharing evidence on how they believe the current funding system discriminates against students in districts with low property values and incomes.
Representation for the respondents, including House and Senate leaders, spent about three weeks making their case.
Petitioners say they were able to bring something to the trial that respondents could not: the voices of those impacted.
“It was compelling for the judge to hear directly from people impacted by the current inadequate and inequitable system,” said Deborah Gordon Klehr, Executive Director at the Education Law Center. “Whether it was hearing from the ten superintendents who testified, or a student, or teachers, or school business officials, or experts on school funding, school finance, we were able to present a compelling and strong case,” she added.
One of those superintendents is Dr. Amy Arcurio, Superintendent of the Greater Johnstown School District. She, alongside several other superintendents from petitioning school districts, addressed the media and reflected on the trial outside Commonwealth Court this evening.
“All students across the Commonwealth deserve to be career and college ready when they exit our doors at graduation,” said Dr. Arcurio. “It shouldn’t be dependent on student zip code or the communities from which they come.”
And after the final day of the trial, petitioners feel confident about the case they’ve made.
“I’m feeling very confident,” said Dr. Arcurio. “We had an excellent group, a legal team that supported us throughout the process, we had expert witnesses and we had great opportunity to tell our story,” said Dr. Arcurio.
Petitioners say this trial can completely reshape public education in the commonwealth, and provide equal opportunity for all students.
“This trial can definitely have the potential to change the trajectory for students, especially students like mine, who are living in deep poverty,” said Dr. Arcurio. “We know that education is the big game changer.”
“When schools are adequately funded, schools would be adequately staffed with skilled educators. High quality early education would help ensure that students do not start kindergarten far behind,” said Gordon Klehr.
It’s something petitioners are looking forward to, pending a positive trial outcome.
“Schools would be clean, comfortable, safe facilities with adequate technology. Every school would have the nurses, guidance counselors, social workers and psychologists needed to ensure that students have the full range of supports needed to learn. That’s what we’re looking forward to,” added Gordon Klehr.
Post-trial briefings and oral arguments are expected to last through this summer before a final ruling is announced.
Regardless of the outcome, the case will likely be appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.