Four takeaways from Pa.’s landmark school-funding trial, two weeks into Republican witnesses

Inquirer by Maddie Hanna and Kristen A. Graham, February 11, 2022

A school finance expert called by GOP lawmakers disputed allegations in the lawsuit challenging how Pennsylvania pays for public schools.

As Republican legislative leaders defend Pennsylvania against a historic lawsuit challenging its school funding system, they called as a witness this week a school finance expert who characterized the state as both in line with peers and increasing education spending at a faster rate than others nationally. Jason Willis, a director with the California-based WestEd education research group who consults for states and school systems on school finance, disputed allegations in the lawsuit brought by six school districts, two statewide groups, and several parents claiming Pennsylvania’s method of funding public education is so inadequate and inequitable that it violates the state constitution. He also disagreed with some findings of one of the petitioners’ experts, Matthew Kelly, a Pennsylvania State University assistant professor who calculated that the poorest 20% of Pennsylvania school districts spend thousands of dollars less per pupil than the wealthiest 20%, despite greater student needs.

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