EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — The educational landscape in Pennsylvania could soon change after a commonwealth court ruling.
A judge found that Pennsylvania was violating the constitutional rights of students, namely in poorer districts, by the way, it allocates state funds to districts.
Words like “Historic and landmark” are being used to describe the judge’s ruling.
The bottom line? That ruling appears to force state lawmakers to change the way it funds public education.
“My initial reaction was just of relief. We knew it was a historical decision that was given to us,” said Wilkes-Barre Area School District Superintendant Doctor Brian Costello.
Dr. Costello says the commonwealth court ruling will mean that less wealthy school districts, such as his, should benefit financially.
“Moving forward it could be a significant amount of money that would allow us to properly fund resources needed for our students. It could be anywhere from $30 million dollar up,” said Dr. Costello.
Wilkes-Barre was one of six school districts that were part of a lawsuit filed eight years ago against the governor, the education department, the education secretary, the state board of education, and high-ranking state lawmakers.
The judge found that the current educational funding system was unfair to poorer school districts.
Thereby depriving its students of educational opportunities that were accessible to students in wealthier districts.
Denise Thomas is a member of the Wilkes-Barre Area School Board.
“What could it mean? The possibilities are endless..especially for the younger ones. We had to cut some programs. Hopefully, they’ll be back on the table like elementary music,” said Thomas.
Now state lawmakers have to figure out, how to transform the current system to make it more equitable.
“I think what we have to do is evaluate the budget and make sure that the schools that have been underfunded get the appropriate dollars,” said Democratic Representative of Pennsylvania 121st District Eddie Day Pashinski.
“We talked about the idea of changing the way we deliver public education because one thing we can all agree on–it’s time that depending on your zip code you don’t have the same access to a high-quality education,” said Republican Representative of Pennsylvania 78th District Jessie Topper.
This is not a done deal. There is a possibility the defendants in the lawsuit, including the state, could appeal the ruling, which could tie it up in court for a very long time.
However, Governor Shapiro, when he was Attorney General, supported the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
He released a statement saying his office is reviewing the commonwealth court ruling and will determine their next steps.