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Pa. school districts sue state over funding

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They represent some of the poorest districts in Pennsylvania, and Monday they filed a lawsuit against the commonwealth. Six school districts from across Pennsylvania, including the School District of Lancaster, parents, The Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools, and the Pennsylvania NAACP filed the lawsuit. They point out that the state constitution guarantees a certain level of resources for children, but claim current funding levels discriminate against children in poorer communities.

"Really it can't get worse. We have kids in classrooms of 20, 30, 40 kids in a classroom and we don't have music, art, and libraries. It just can't worse. There is no where else to go and school districts around the commonwealth are telling us that," said Jennifer Clarke, Executive Director for the Public Interest Law Center of Pennsylvania.

"We changed our librarians, we've had to outsource people, we have cut programs. One thing we are very proud of is we have not had to cut any of the arts," said Jennifer Desmarais, vice president of the board of school directors of the School District of Lancaster. "The things that we thought two years ago thought we would never touch are now at the top of the list of things that we are going to need to touch, and there's only so far that you can go," said Desmarais.

Statement from Department of Education
The state courts have consistently ruled that funding for public schools is under the sole discretion of the General Assembly, and it is not an issue in which the courts would be involved.  The 2014-15 state budget provides more than $10 billion in state support of public schools – an increase of $305 million over 2013-14 and an increase of $1.5 billion since 2011.  When the first PARSS lawsuit was filed in 1997, total spending in public schools was $13.7 billion.  As of 2012-13, total spending jumped to $27.6 billion – an increase of $13.8 billion, or 101 percent.  The commonwealth’s authority rests on the amount of state dollars allocated in the annual state budget for support of public schools, and as of 2014-15, Pennsylvania invests a record $10 billion in public schools – the highest level ever," said Tim Eller, press secretary and director of press and communications for Pennsylvania Department of Education.