Pennsylvania, Court Ruling and School Funding – An Update on the Latest 

February, 2023 - Shane P. Riley

While a recent Pennsylvania ruling issued In February 2023 has been hailed as a victory for the underfunded school districts in the state, it could be a long road ahead before meaningful change makes its way to the students, teachers, and schools who need it the most.
The ruling, authored by Commonwealth Court Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer, found that the state’s system of funding public schools violates students’ constitutional rights to receive a “comprehensive, effective, and contemporary” education. At its heart is the recognition that students in low property value areas and from low income families are not given the same opportunities and resources as those from more affluent areas.
However, moving to a more equitable funding system from the current model of funding primarily through local property taxes may be a much longer and arduous journey than achieving this seminal victory, which began with initial court filings in 2014. In other states with similar rulings, there has not been significant action taken by lawmakers to become fully compliant with the judges’ orders. Some more funding will come, experts say, but not nearly enough to resolve the inequities these districts are facing. Real change could end up taking years or, likely, decades.
In Pennsylvania, the path forward will largely be determined by the ability of Governor Shapiro and the divided Legislature to work together to enact sweeping changes fully compliant with Judge Cohn Jubelirer’s order. All eyes will be on the upcoming budget plan issued from the Governor’s office and the ensuing debate in the state’s House. As the victory celebrations die down, the lingering sentiment appears to be “we shall see.”



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