Harrisburg – March 7, 2018 — Senate Democratic Appropriations Chair Vincent J. Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery) issued the following statement concerning today’s Commonwealth Court hearing on fair funding for Pennsylvania’s public schools.
“We are not doing enough to adequately fund our schools,” Hughes said. “There are gaping holes in the education funding structure.
“Pennsylvania policymakers have an obligation to give our students every chance to succeed –right now — through a quality education, and that is not happening. This lawsuit will compel action and it needs to move forward though the courts.”
The case before the court centers on whether the General Assembly is violating Article III, Section 14 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which says “The General Assembly shall “provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth.”
Also at issue is whether the General Assembly is violating the state’s equal protection provision because of the great disparities in funding among school districts.
The case has been filed on behalf of six school districts, seven parents, the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools (PARSS) and the NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference. Commonwealth Court today heard arguments on preliminary objections and a motion to dismiss the lawsuit from attorneys for House Speaker Mike Turzai and Senate Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati.
Hughes has been a vocal advocate of adequate and equitable funding for public schools.
In a state Senate budget hearing Tuesday, Hughes raised concerns about how the lack of financial resources is impacting public school facilities. He raised his cell phone and implored students to take pictures of dilapidated buildings, mold, flooded basements and other structural problems to prompt lawmakers to act.
“You just gave me a great idea,” he said to Department of Education Secretary Pedro Rivera during a discussion on school facilities. “Every student in a school right now should use their device and take a photograph.”
Hughes said that the pictures will illustrate the problems they must deal with, “not to embarrass the people who are providing the education in those schools, but to send a message to the adults who are in this building [state Capitol] who are supposed to be responding to their needs.”
“The state is suing us right now. The kids are suing us right now. The parents are suing us right now and the communities are suing us right now because we have not provided the appropriate funding.”
Hughes said that students can submit photos of the structural issues at schools by posting them on his Facebook page