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Trial Resumes In Harrisburg Tuesday That Could Impact How Pennsylvania Funds Public Schools

PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) -- A trial resumed Tuesday in Harrisburg that could impact how Pennsylvania funds public schools. The lawsuit was filed by a handful of districts several years ago.

The case centers on spending disparities among Pennsylvania's 500 districts and the comparatively low percentage of K-12 education that is paid for by the state government — the plaintiffs say it is about 38%, compared to 47% nationally. Spending figures and test scores are among a dizzying array of statistics and studies expected as evidence. The trial could last well into January.

The plaintiffs, a handful of districts in neighborhoods with comparatively lower property values and family income, argue the reliance on property taxes and what they consider inadequate state subsidies means richer districts spend much more per student, calling it "a system of haves and have nots." The result is that underfunded districts are more likely to have larger class sizes, less qualified faculty, outdated textbooks and other shortcomings, they claimed in the 2014 complaint.

But Republican legislative leaders, who are defendants in the case, say Pennsylvania's educational spending compares favorably to other states and student achievement backs them up.

"Petitioners misleadingly attempt to create a dystopian view of Pennsylvania's education system, referring to the purportedly 'dismal state of public education in Pennsylvania' and warning that 'without a change of course, the future is bleak," wrote attorneys for House Speaker Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, in a June pretrial filing. "Such grave assessment is disconnected from the actual facts."

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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