Our statement on the oral argument before the PA Supreme Court for the school funding lawsuit

Following oral argument of the school funding lawsuit before the PA Supreme Court, Susan Spicka, Executive Director of Education Voters of PA, made the following statement at a press conference at Philadelphia City Hall:

My name is Susan Spicka and I am the Executive Director of Education Voters of Pennsylvania and a parent of two children who attend public schools in the south central part of the state.

I am here today to most strongly urge the PA Supreme Court to allow the school funding lawsuit to go to full trial to give families their day in court so that they can tell the stories of how inadequate state funding is impacting their children.

My daughters attend the Shippensburg Area School District, which educates about 3500 students. In the past five years, our middle school has eliminated the shop, home ec, foreign language, swimming, and writing programs. Students in the high school have lost a guidance counselor along with language arts, business, technology, and foreign language teachers; classes are crowded throughout the district, even in the earliest grades; and our computers are antiquated and frequently unusable.

The textbooks in our district are decades-old and so out-of-date that my daughters’ teachers regularly create materials from scratch and photocopy them in order to be able to teach to the current state standards.

As part of my job, I talk to parents and travel throughout Pennsylvania. I have seen firsthand that my daughters’ district is not an outlier.  In fact, throughout the Commonwealth, school districts have quietly and stoically made heartbreaking cuts that make the Shippensburg seem like a lucky school district.

The deprivation in our public schools is deep and it impacts children from McKean County to Luzerne to Somerset to Wayne to Franklin to Westmoreland Counties and everywhere in between.

Children throughout the Commonwealth are sitting in crowded classrooms. There are children who go to schools that don’t have music or art teachers. Hundreds of thousands of children in the poorest communities in PA have little or no access to a school library or books outside of what their teacher can provide in the classroom.

Our schools are so under-resourced that a professor at our local university recently remarked that many of his incoming freshmen don’t know what a library is.

There is nothing “thorough or efficient” about Pennsylvania’s current school funding system, which guarantees that the poorest children will attend schools that do not have adequate resource to provide students with the opportunities they need to succeed in school today or in their lives after graduation.

The courts must intervene. The Supreme Court must allow this case to go to trial and then the courts must act and rule in favor of the plaintiffs. They must declare what is happening is legally wrong and join the demand for a just remedy so every child in Pennsylvania, from the smallest rural district to the largest urban district, will have an opportunity to learn.