PA COURT ALLOWS ADMISSION OF RACE-BASED EVIDENCE IN FUNDING CASE
A Pennsylvania judge denied the House Speaker’s motion to seek to preclude the plaintiffs in William Penn Sch. Dist. v. Pennsylvania Department of Education from presenting evidence of “the disproportionate impact on racial and/or ethnic minorities, such as spending or achievement gaps.”
Speaker Bryan D. Cutler, a named defendant in the case, had argued that because plaintiffs’ claims challenged the adequacy and the equity of the state’s education finance system, but had not alleged that it was racially discriminatory, they should be precluded from introducing race-based information at the trial. Commonwealth Court Judge Renée Cohn Jubelirer, in a decision issued over the summer, found persuasive decisions of other courts around the country, which had held that how children of color are doing is relevant to a claim about whether a system is working for all students. Moreover, the Court agreed that “evidence about who lives in [Pennsylvania’s] low wealth school districts is relevant to Petitioners’ claims,” as to how those children are doing. The judge did, however, grant the Speaker’s motion to preclude certain “background evidence” in some of plaintiffs’ expert reports that included general statements like the fact that Pennsylvania’s schools are “ among the most deeply segregated” in the nation.
In subsequent orders issued over the summer, Judge Jubelirer ordered the plaintiffs to promptly provide defendants additional discovery information, much of which related to recent Covid-related developments, and she delayed the start of the trial from September 9 to October 12.