Philadelphia, PA – September 28, 2017 – Councilmember Helen Gym (At-Large) made the following statement on today’s Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling on William Penn School District et. al. v. Pa. Department of Education et. al.:
Today, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, in a landmark decision, paved a path toward establishing a more just and equitable funding plan for school districts. They ruled that a lawsuit must go forward to determine whether the state’s method of distributing school funding results in unconstitutional deprivation in economically disadvantaged school districts. This ruling is a victory for students, for families, and for sustained organizing by communities over decades of struggle.
It is also a clear indictment of Pennsylvania’s school funding system, the most inequitable in the nation. The plaintiffs in the case have effectively argued that funding deficiencies prevent many districts from meeting the academic standards set by the state. When state legislators neglect their constitutional mandates, the courts must step in to hold them accountable. That’s why I commend and thank the resilient and powerful advocates, parents, school boards, and a heroic legal community for pursuing equity and justice in this case over decades.
I look forward to the next stage – a trial – in which the people will speak. We will talk of our experiences of shuttered schools, buildings in disrepair, poorly resourced classrooms, and a legislature that has failed time and again in its central duty to fund our schools equitably.
State lawmakers don’t have to wait for the courts to step in. They can fix this now by stepping up for our schools. The Pennsylvania General Assembly must create a budget plan that prioritizes school funding and ensures that all public schools have equitable access to adequate resources.
As the Court stated in its decision, “constitutional promises must be kept.” As a mother of public school graduates and students, I look forward to helping the Court make that a reality.
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Councilwoman Helen Gym was sworn in as an At-Large Member of Council in 2016. Her primary concerns include addressing widespread poverty in Philadelphia, particularly through an emphasis on building a quality public education system. For more information, visit phlcouncil.com/HelenGym.