Northen also guided Donley through some of the state’s efforts to direct more money to less affluent and needy districts, including passing an “equitable funding formula” in 2016 that gives additional weight to districts that serve more low-income students. and English learners. The state also added $100 million in “upper tier” funds to the 2021-22 budget, targeting the 100 poorest districts in the state.
Defense attorneys have pointed out that Pennsylvania ranks near the top, nationally, in how much it spends per student, while plaintiffs say that figure masks wide disparities between districts. , and note that the Commonwealth is near the bottom in the share of education funding that comes from the state. They also note that the fair funding formula only applies to new education funding and argue that it does not do enough to close spending gaps.
Christine Rossell, professor emeritus of political science at Boston University, also spoke on Thursday. She argued that standardized test scores are not a reliable metric for measuring the quality of education English learners receive, in part because students can move out of the EL category once they master the language. language.
“Black or Hispanic students, if their scores go up, they’re still black or Hispanic,” she said. “Disadvantaged students, if their grades go up, they are still disadvantaged. So they are still in that category. If an English language learner’s score increases to a certain point, they leave that group, so the group still consists of low scores.
Rossell helped design “English Laws for Childrenthat prohibit bilingual education and instead favor immersion education only in English.
She will return to the stand on Friday for cross-examination, before the defense closes its first week of witnesses.
In the first nine weeks of the trial, attorneys for the plaintiffs — which include six school districts, several parents and two statewide organizations — argued that Pennsylvania public schools are so underfunded and that the spending gaps between poor and rich districts are so wide, that the state is violating its constitutional mandate to provide a “thorough and efficient” education system.
They called educators from school districts across the state to the stand, to describe everything from crumbling school buildings to oversized classrooms to lack of support services, and brought in experts to testify that he increased funding is the key to closing the student achievement gap.
During cross-examination, attorneys for the GOP legislative leaders sought to paint a rosier picture of the plaintiffs’ school districts, pointing to accomplishments such as an award-winning debate team and top course offerings.
As they build their case in the coming weeks, they should call their own expert witnesses to testify that putting more money into schools doesn’t necessarily improve student success.
La Défense praises the choice of school
Their first witness on Wednesday served to highlight some of the school choice options available to Commonwealth families.
Aaron Anderson, the principal of Logos Academy – a private K-12 “Christ-centered” school with 225 students – said his school was intended to serve a significant number of children “who live in the poverty and who we believe have not had a good shot at an education in a failing school district,”
Anderson, an ordained minister, said his student body was 37% white, 28% Latino, 23% black, and 12% multi-ethnic or mixed-race, with 59% living at or below the federal poverty level. The majority come from the York City School District, one of the poorest districts in the state.
Logos Academy students score above the national average on some standardized tests like the SATs, and “there isn’t a big disparity in performance” based on students’ income level, Anderson said. .
“Generally what we see is that in our environment, especially as students have been with us for years, they tend to start performing at very similar levels,” he said. declared.
About half of Logos Academy’s $3.3 million budget comes from two state tax relief programs that provide scholarships to private school students: the Education Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and the Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC).