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EA Could Benefit From Lawsuit Over Funds

By Dianne Ribecca
The Tube City Almanac
February 20, 2023
Posted in: North Versailles Twp. News

East Allegheny School District could benefit if state lawmakers are forced to revise the way Pennsylvania funds public education.

At this month’s school board meeting, Superintendent Alan Johnson said East Allegheny is in the top 2 percent of districts that are most impacted by funding disparities.

The Pennsylvania Fair Funding Formula, which became law in 2016, is designed to distribute state education funding so that all students receive a high-quality education without discriminating against smaller, poorer districts, Johnson said.

But the Public Interest Law Center, Education Law Center, several school districts and a group of parents sued the state nine years ago, alleging that Pennsylvania’s method of funding public education is unconstitutional, because it relies heavily on local property taxes.

The plaintiffs allege the property tax system penalizes poorer, struggling districts with less development and lower property values, and violates the clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution that promises to provide a “thorough and efficient” system of public education. Pennsylvania ranks 45th out of 50 for the share of funding for schools provided by the state government.

The defendants include Pennsylvania’s governor, state legislative leaders and state education officials.

On Feb. 7, the state Commonwealth Court ruled that the way Pennsylvania schools are funded is not equitable and violates the state constitution. The defendants can appeal the ruling to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Johnson said that if the ruling stands, the benefit to East Allegheny could be as much as $2.5 million in additional funding, he said.

In addition, he said, the state legislature will have to revamp the entire funding method for all districts.

In other business: The district is considering alternative methods of student discipline that would make punishments more restorative, rather than punitive.

A representative of the University of Pittsburgh explained the differences to the board.

In brief, the concept would shift discipline from punishments such as suspensions, detention and isolation to requiring students to make amends and repair any harm they caused.

Restorative practices are currently being implemented in the Logan Elementary School as well as at the junior high level, Johnson said. The experiment is having a profound effect, he said.

The next school board committee meeting will be held at 7 p.m. March 6 in the conference room of the district offices on Jacks Run Road, North Versailles Twp.

Dianne Ribecca is program director of Tube City Online Radio, host of the Consumer Review Report podcast, and a member of the board of directors of Tube City Community Media Inc. She may be reached at dmribecca@gmail.com

Originally published February 20, 2023.

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