By Mike DeNardo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A group of school districts, parents, and the NAACP are suing the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, claiming the state’s level of school funding is unconstitutional.

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The suit claims the state legislature, education officials, and governor Tom Corbett have failed to give children the resources they need to meet Pennsylvania’s “thorough and efficient” education standard.

Michael Churchill, an attorney with the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, representing the plaintiffs, says the election of Tom Wolf as governor may yield a political solution — but he says the issue is too urgent to bank on that.

“We hope both the governor and the legislature can work out a solution to this problem, and the lawsuit can go away,” Churchill tells KYW Newsradio.  “But until they do, we’re going to press the courts to say we’ve waited long enough.”

The plaintiffs include six school districts from across Pennsylvania (including the William Penn School District, in Delaware County), seven parents (including one from Philadelphia), the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools, and the state NAACP.  The School District of Philadelphia is not a party to the suit.

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In response, Pennsylvania Department of Education spokesman Tim Eller questions the merits of the lawsuit, saying state funding is at its highest level ever:

“To say that the commonwealth’s taxpayers aren’t spending enough, aren’t paying enough, that’s an interesting statement considering the 101-percent increase in spending in our public schools over the past 15 years.”

And Eller says the state has prevailed in similar legal challenges.

“The basis of this lawsuit is questionable because this is an issue that’s been tried before the courts before,” he tells KYW Newsradio, “and the courts have repeatedly stated that the funding for education is at the discretion of the General Assembly — the courts were not going to get involved in it.”

 

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