HARRISBURG, Pa. (Erie News Now) – Post-trial oral arguments in Pennsylvania’s fair funding trial have concluded.
This is the last major component to the trial which began in Nov. 2021 and heard closing arguments this spring. After nearly eight months, today was the last time that both sides made their case in Commonwealth Court.
The post-trial arguments focused on whether Pennsylvania is required, under the state Constitution, to provide a quality public school education for all students.
Even with a pending decision in the historic trial and a major increase in education spending in the new budget, the fight is not over for fair funding advocates.
“Decades of neglect cannot be amended in one budget,” said Nasharie Stewart, a recent graduate of William Penn School District, one of the six petitioning school districts in the fair funding trial. “Now isn’t the time to get comfortable because of this year’s budget that finally prioritizes students. Now is the time to stand up, and continue explaining to those who don’t work in these schools and can’t see for themselves, just how underfunded they are,” Stewart added.
She says although the budget is a win for public schools this year, the funding system still needs fixing.
“The only way to secure the future of current students and future students is to repair this broken system and decide this case in favor of every Pennsylvania student who wants more, deserves more, and has the right to more,” said Stewart.
Teachers and students spoke about their experiences during a rally at the Capitol today as oral arguments proceeded a block away in Commonwealth Court. They are hoping the court will rule in their favor to address what they call inequitable funding and its impact, especially in lower wealth districts.
“For the sake of all current and future students across the state, it is imperative that we fix the inadequacies of this system,” said Paul Vandy, a senior at Penn Wood High. “I know I’m a twelfth grader and I’ll be leaving my school soon, but I still have younger siblings and I feel it is my duty to work to make sure they have the opportunities and the resources that I never did, and go farther than I ever will,” added Vandy.
“We need equal funding in our schools, no matter if we’re Hispanic or black,” said Yacaranday “Jackie” Bobadilla, a student-advocate. “How are we supposed to be the future of Pennsylvania if our education is put in jeopardy due to lack of funding,” she added.
Today’s post-trial arguments marked the last major step of a months-long case that petitioners waited roughly seven-years for.
“This is kind of like the final chance everybody has to have their say before the judge will take all the information and then issue a decision,” said Susan Spicka, the Executive Director for Education Voters of Pennsylvania.
Spicka says a constitutional obligation was at the core of today’s final arguments.
“They focused really on the fact that Pennsylvania has a constitution that requires that the legislature provide for a thorough and efficient system of education,” said Spicka.
Now it’s up to the court to decide. It’s a decision that advocates say will impact the future of Pennsylvania.
“From Upper Darby to Philadelphia, to Pittsburgh to Chester, to York to Erie, to the Pocono Mountains, we know that our student accomplishments tomorrow are inextricably tied to their education today,” said Cintia Isles, a parent from the Upper Darby School District. “Their success should not be in spite of a poor education. It should be fueled by a great education,” Isles added.
Spicka says regardless of the outcome, fair funding advocates are prepared for the road ahead.
“We are ready to fight and we are ready to fight until the day that this Legislature will finally provide our school students with the money that they deserve,” said Spicka.