Landmark Pennsylvania School Funding Trial: Week One Testimony Cites Financial Disparities

masked crown at domed building
Image via The Philadelphia Inquirer.
The lawsuit's initial day of testimony drew supporters to Harrisburg to show agreement that the state's present funding arrangement is inadequate and unfair.

The landmark Pennsylvania school funding system trial saw an opening week of personal accounts on the insufficiencies of finances and the implications of those shortfalls. Expert witnesses also testified about state-aid distribution discrepancies and the gulf they widen between the Commonwealth’s richest and poorest communities. Maddie Hanna and Kristen A. Graham parsed the litigation for The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Litigators on both sides of the case began by tackling the very definition of public education, its goals, and standards.

The case’s plaintiffs — school districts, educational organizations, and parents from across the state — called Derek Black, a University of South Carolina law professor and expert in constitutional education clauses. He testified that Pennsylvania’s constitution mandates a “thorough and efficient” system of education.

Republican legislative leaders, defendants in the case, counter-questioned if that standard had already been met.

The first week also showed that Pennsylvania’s general approach to public education funding is an outlier stance.

Matthew Kelly, a Penn State education professor, attested to the state’s heavy reliance on local taxes to fund schools. Pennsylvania collects 55 percent of education funding from local sources, which puts it in 45th place among states for the revenue share it contributes to public classroom instruction.

Read more about the Pennsylvania school funding system trial in The Philadelphia Inquirer.