LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — A landmark school funding decision was reached Tuesday after a judge ruled Pennsylvania has not fulfilled its obligations to properly fund public schools, especially those in less fortunate communities.
The School District of Lancaster was one of six districts to bring the lawsuit, and former Superintendent Damaris Rau says the decision will have positive consequences for generations to come.
“This decision is good for all kids. This is not just about the students at the School District of Lancaster. There are children who are economically disadvantaged across the entire Commonwealth,” said Dr. Rau.
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Dr. Rau says the pandemic put a spotlight on the disparities in education and it highlighted why the court’s decision matters.
“We did not have a piece of technology for every student in our school district, which was really hard because we were closed for three months,” Dr. Rau said.
The judge says it’s now up to the legislature, the governor, and education leaders to figure out how to revamp the system and make it work for all students.
“Their obligation to actually fix the system starts now, and we will make sure our work remains even while this case is on appeal,” said one of the lawyers who brought the case.
In a statement, Pennsylvania House Republicans, who were defendants in this case, called the decision “disappointing but not surprising.”
Leader Bryan Cutler said, “The problems existing in our public education system go well beyond funding.” He added that “many of our public schools often lack real accountability and have become captured by special interests and bureaucrats who put their needs above that of the students.”
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Dr. Rau doesn’t see it that way. She says the money will do what it’s supposed to do.
“Over the long term, as the money starts trickling in, we could start doing some of the things we said we wanted to do, so hiring more teachers so that our class sizes reduced so that students get more teacher time, expert time,” Dr. Rau said.
This decision could be appealed to the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court, but the timing would be critical because it’s a long shot that the high court would hear and rule on the case before the next state budget is ironed out.