MCKEESPORT, Pa. (KDKA) – Public school leaders in western Pennsylvania are closely following a historic trial that started in a Harrisburg courtroom on Friday because it could affect how the state funds public schools in the future.
The lawsuit was filed by a handful of school districts several years ago. It argues Pennsylvania has underfunded public schools and has left some schools that have low resources with inadequate funding.READ MORE: Charleroi Mother And Father Now Facing Homicide Charges In Infant's Death
McKeesport Area School District Superintendent Dr. Mark Holtzman and other school district superintendents in the Pittsburgh region are hoping for the best as they watch the trial play out.
“I think it’s a great opportunity not only for underfunded school districts like McKeesport to be able to see a long-term solution to the funding problems,” said Dr. Holtzman.
The outcome of the trial could lead to changes to how Pennsylvania funds public schools, especially for school districts in rural, small and low-income communities.
“We’re in a difficult situation when we have children coming to us from impoverished situations and historically underperforming situations. It does have a major impact,” Holtzman said. “In a community like McKeesport, we have to kind of support the whole child — and a lot of times families with some of those things — and to not have those resources consistently makes it very difficult to meet the needs of all children.”
With more consistent state funding, Holtzman said they could afford more resources that are needed to support their students’ specific needs.
“Positions like social work and looking at ways to meet the needs of children with mental health, social services for families, other things just beyond true books and tablets and pens and pencils,” he said.READ MORE: Pittsburgh Weather: Conditions Point To 2021 Not Being A White Christmas
It would also help McKeesport Area schools stay up to date on curriculum programs and technology, which could lead students in the right direction.
“As we look at those things to be competitive, prepare our children for post-secondary education, or workforce, they need to have the same access to those types of things as everybody else,” Dr. Holtzman said.
Governor Tom Wolf’s efforts, including charter school reform, have helped his district recover, but Holtzman said it’s still difficult because a large portion of their budget is consumed by charter school tuition.
Holtzman said more consistent funding from the state could balance their budget and provide stability. He believes more resources for students and families would in turn improve the McKeesport community.
“We could bring resources in looking at diversity, equity, inclusion in our schools and look at things that as school leaders, we haven’t been able to tackle or are struggling with but having the opportunity to have expertise and contacts with people who can help us, it would be a great opportunity to have more stability,” he said.
Meanwhile, Republican legislative leaders who are defendants in the case said Pennsylvania’s educational spending is fine and compares favorably to other states and that student achievement backs up that claim.MORE NEWS: Pittsburgh Public Schools Investigating Threats Made Towards Numerous School Campuses
The trial could go on into January.