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BENSALEM TOWNSHIP SCHOOL DISTRICT v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (04/22/87)

decided: April 22, 1987.

BENSALEM TOWNSHIP SCHOOL DISTRICT, AND ROBERT DEWEY IN HIS OWN RIGHT AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHER TAXPAYERS OF BENSALEM TOWNSHIP, AND MARK JASKOLKA, A MINOR BY ANDREW JASKOLKA, HIS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN, IN HIS OWN RIGHT AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHER SCHOOL AGED CHILDREN IN BENSALEM TOWNSHIP, PETITIONERS
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, AND THE TREASURER OF PENNSYLVANIA, AND THE SECRETARY OF EDUCATION OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, RESPONDENTS



Original Jurisdiction in case of Bensalem Township School District, and Robert Dewey, in his own right and on behalf of all other taxpayers of Bensalem Township, and Mark Jaskolka, a minor, by Andrew Jaskolka, his parent and natural guardian, in his own right and on behalf of all other school aged children in Bensalem Township v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and The Treasurer of Pennsylvania, and The Secretary of Education of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

COUNSEL

James M. McMaster, Smith and McMaster, P.C., for petitioners.

Allen C. Warshaw, Executive Deputy Attorney General, with him, John G. Knorr, III, Senior Deputy Attorney General, Andrew S. Gordon, Chief Deputy Attorney General, Chief, Litigation Section, and LeRoy S. Zimmerman, Attorney General, for respondents.

President Judge Crumlish, Jr., Judges Craig, MacPhail, Doyle, Barry, Colins and Palladino. Opinion by Judge MacPhail.

Author: Macphail

[ 105 Pa. Commw. Page 390]

Before this Court in our original jurisdiction*fn1 is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Bensalem Township School District, Robert Dewey (in his own right and on behalf of all other Bensalem Township taxpayers), and Mark Jaskolka, a minor by Andrew Jaskolka (in his own right and on behalf of all other school-aged children in Bensalem Township) (Petitioners) asking us to declare specific provisions of the Public School Code of 1949*fn2 (Code) unconstitutional. For the reasons set forth below, we deny Petitioners' motion and enter judgment for the Respondents.

On May 25, 1984, Petitioners filed with this Court a petition for review in the nature of an action for declaratory and equitable relief against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Treasurer of Pennsylvania, and the Secretary of Education of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (Respondents). Petitioners alleged that the statutory scheme for the funding of the Commonwealth's public schools, specifically Section 2502.5 and Section 2502.6 of the Code, 24 P.S. ยงยง 25-2502.5 and 25-2502.6, violates both on its face and as applied the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and Article I, Section 1 and Section 26, and Article III, Section 14 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. In addition to seeking the declaration on constitutionality, Petitioners sought to enjoin the Secretary of Education and the Treasurer from distributing subsidies in accordance with Section 2502.6.

[ 105 Pa. Commw. Page 391]

In their answer and new matter, Respondents argued that the petition for review failed to state a cause of action, that Petitioners lacked standing, and that the action was barred by laches and/or the applicable statute of limitations and sovereign and official immunity.*fn3

Petitioners took no further action, and on October 17, 1985, this Court issued a rule upon them to show cause why their case should not be dismissed for want of prosecution. Petitioners were given until November 18, 1985 to respond. In their answer to the rule, Petitioners maintained that they had delayed action because of efforts to resolve the matter through legislative action and requested an additional six months to allow the General Assembly to act. Accordingly, on November 21, 1985, the rule was discharged, and Petitioners were directed to file a status report on or before May 19, 1986. The status report, ultimately filed July 11, 1986, stated that inasmuch as new legislation granted only partial relief, Petitioners would file a Motion for Summary Judgment. Such motion, filed October 13, 1986, is now before our Court.

The statutory scheme established by the Code for the funding of the Commonwealth's public schools provides for state subsidies to supplement local taxing efforts. The subsidies are determined for each school district by a complex formula which involves a consideration of student enrollment, district spending, and the

[ 105 Pa. Commw. Page 392]

    district's relative wealth.*fn4 See Danson v. Casey, 33 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 614, 382 A.2d 1238 (1978), aff'd, 484 Pa. 415, 399 A.2d 360 (1979). In this Court's opinion in Danson, ...


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