Pa. schools group files suit over halted funding

 Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, left, and Speaker of the House Mike Turazi, R-Allegheny, right, speak with the news media in the state Capitol regarding the budget negotiations in December. A suit filed Friday claims it's illegal and unconstitutional to cut off commonwealth schools from their funding when there's no final budget, especially when other programs and state employees -- including Reed and Turzai --  continue to be paid. (AP Photo/Bradley C Bower)

Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, left, and Speaker of the House Mike Turazi, R-Allegheny, right, speak with the news media in the state Capitol regarding the budget negotiations in December. A suit filed Friday claims it's illegal and unconstitutional to cut off commonwealth schools from their funding when there's no final budget, especially when other programs and state employees -- including Reed and Turzai -- continue to be paid. (AP Photo/Bradley C Bower)

Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration and the Legislature are facing a lawsuit from Pennsylvania schools over the budget impasse’s freeze of education funding.

The Pennsylvania School Boards Association, which represents each of the state’s 500 school districts, filed the legal challenge Friday in Commonwealth Court.

The suit claims it’s illegal and unconstitutional to cut off commonwealth schools from their funding when there’s no final budget, especially when other programs and state employees continue to be paid.

“We expect, no matter what is going on with the state budget, that there is fire protection. We expect that the police are there. We expect that the prisons are secure,” said PSBA director Nathan Mains. “I think that we should expect that children aren’t stuck in the middle of a budget crisis and that our public schools are going to not only be able to remain open, but to be effective.”

Pennsylvania’s stalemate snarled public funding for Pennsylvania schools for six months, until the governor approved a partial budget in late December. That has freed up “emergency funds,” but schools say they could face money problems again in a few months if a full year’s budget isn’t passed.

In the suit, the PSBA also asks Commonwealth Court to award damages for lost investment and borrowing costs during the impasse. Mains said he couldn’t peg a dollar figure on the total amount the state could owe.

“It would vary by district,” said Mains. “I wouldn’t even pretend to take a wild guess at that.”

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