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William Penn School District v. Pennsylvania Dep't of Education

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

April 21, 2015

William Penn School District; Panther Valley School District; the School District of Lancaster; Greater Johnstown School District; Wilkes-Barre Area School District; Shenandoah Valley School District; Jamella and Bryant Miller, parents of K.M., a minor; Sheila Armstrong, parent of S.A., minor; Tyesha Strickland, parent of E.T., minor; Angel Martinez, parent of A.M., minor; Barbara Nemeth, parent of C.M., minor; Tracey Hughes, parent of P.M.H., minor; Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools; and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People-Pennsylvania State Conference, Petitioners
v.
Pennsylvania Department of Education; Joseph B. Scarnati III, in his official capacity as President Pro-Tempore of the Pennsylvania Senate; Michael C. Turzai, in his official capacity as the Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives; Thomas W. Corbett, in his official capacity as the Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania State Board of Education; and Carolyn Dumaresq, in her official capacity as the Acting Secretary of Education, Respondents

Argued: March 11, 2015.

Court of ORIGINAL JURISDICTION.

Brad M. Elias, New York, NY, for petitioners.

Lucy E. Fritz, Deputy Attorney General, Harrisburg, for respondents Pennsylvania Department of Education, Thomas W. Corbett, Pennsylvania State Board of Education and Carolyn Dumaresq.

Patrick M. Northen, Philadelphia, for respondents Joseph B. Scarnati, III, Samuel H. Smith and Michael C. Turzai.

BEFORE: HONORABLE DAN PELLEGRINI, President Judge, HONORABLE BERNARD L. McGINLEY, Judge, HONORABLE ROBERT SIMPSON, Judge, HONORABLE MARY HANNAH LEAVITT, Judge, HONORABLE P. KEVIN BROBSON, Judge, HONORABLE PATRICIA A. McCULLOUGH, Judge, HONORABLE ANNE E. COVEY, Judge. OPINION BY PRESIDENT JUDGE PELLEGRINI. Judge Cohn Jubelirer did not participate in the decision of this case.

OPINION

Page 457

DAN PELLEGRINI, President Judge

Before this Court are the preliminary objections filed by the Respondents[1] to the petition for review filed by public school districts that allege that they are underfunded; individual parents of students attending public school; and organizations

Page 458

advocating for the school districts and the students (collectively, Petitioners)[2] seeking declaratory and injunctive relief because the current public school funding scheme purportedly violates the Education[3] and Equal Protection[4] Clauses of the Pennsylvania Constitution. We sustain the preliminary objections and dismiss the petition for review.

I.

Petitioners filed this petition for review in our original jurisdiction seeking declaratory and injunctive relief alleging that the Education Clause creates a fundamental right for every school-aged child to attend free public schools and an opportunity to obtain an adequate education as defined in the Department's regulations.[5]

In Count I, Petitioners assert that through the enactment of statewide academic standards[6] and assessments[7] such as the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA)[8] and Keystone examinations,[9] Respondents have defined the content of the public education system and the

Page 459

level of proficiency that the individual students must attain in order to meet the requirements of the Education Clause. (Petition for Review at ¶ 302).[10] Petitioners also contend that the Commonwealth's academic Common Core standards[11] set forth a prescribed course of study for students and a progression from grade-to-grade that forms the core of the Commonwealth's public education system. ( Id. at ΒΆ 303). Petitioners argue that Respondents have violated their constitutional duties by failing to provide sufficient resources to meet those standards because the current funding levels are irrational, arbitrary and not ...


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