William Penn School District v. Pennsylvania Department of Education

Pennsylvania parents, school districts, and advocacy organizations brought a lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Pennsylvania State Board of Education, state legislative leaders, and state education officials, alleging that the state has failed to adequately and equitably fund public education. 

Juvenile Law Center and 19 advocacy organizations joined an amicus brief filed by Jones Day and the New Jersey-based Education Law Center in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania in support of the plaintiffs. Our brief argued that students in Pennsylvania’s low-wealth districts require targeted programs and services to receive an adequate constitutional education. The brief further argued that inequities in education disproportionately impact children of color across Pennsylvania, that other state courts have ruled that “at-risk” students require targeted programs and services, and that increased school funding improves academic and life outcomes for these students. 

In an important win for Pennsylvania youth, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania held that Respondents have “clearly, palpably, and plainly violated” the Education Clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution by failing “to provide all students with access to a comprehensive, effective, and contemporary system of public education that will give them a meaningful opportunity to succeed academically, socially, and civically.” In a nearly 800-page opinion, the Court held that education is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Pennsylvania Constitution, and that students in low-wealth districts have been deprived of opportunities and resources available to students in high-wealth districts, in violation of their right to equal protection. The Court ordered Respondents “to devise a plan to address the constitutional deficiencies identified” in the opinion.