The historic lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania’s school funding system is finally scheduled to have its day in court, but opposition lawyers are “playing the race card” in a desperate attempt to prevent that.
Lawyers for PA House Speaker Bryan Cutler and the House Republicans (the “Respondents”) objected to evidence that demonstrates how Black and Hispanic students are disproportionately impacted by funding gaps, claiming that it is irrelevant and emotionally charged.
The equal protection clause in our state constitution requires that all people receive equal protection of the law but too often “all” doesn’t actually mean “all.” A failure to highlight race as a factor frequently means race is overlooked.
Attorneys for the struggling parents and school districts responded, “The evidence Speaker Cutler now seeks to eliminate – including evidence that students of color are more likely to reside in the lowest-funded districts, more likely to lack the educational resources they need to learn, and consequently less likely to become proficient on state assessments, graduate high school, or enter college – is central to the question of whether Respondents are fulfilling their constitutional mandates.”
PCCY found that PA’s failure to fully fund education means that Black and Hispanic students are more likely to be denied small class sizes, tutoring, updated textbooks, access to technology, and other supports that boost academic achievement.
Just as we shouldn’t whitewash American history in classrooms, we can’t whitewash Pennsylvania’s history in courtrooms either.
“Although our case is not a race discrimination case, this data is plainly relevant to determining whether or not our school funding system meets the needs of *all* children in Pennsylvania, as our state constitution requires,” said the Public Interest Law Center.
Pennsylvania’s equal protection clause mirrors the 14th Amendment in the U.S. Constitution, which was the legal foundation of Brown v. Board of Education, a landmark decision that fundamentally changed education in this country.
As Chief Justice Warren wrote in Brown in 1954, “In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.”
These prescient words apply to every child, of every race, in the state’s lowest income schools who, as a result of state policy, are denied the opportunity of an education.