Powell v. Ridge
After the state Supreme Court declined to enforce the state Constitution’s requirement to maintain a quality system of education, the Law Center in 1998 filed Powell v. Ridge in federal court, an innovative case alleging that the state’s system for funding its public schools had a disparate negative impact on minority students and thus violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The funding formula the state used led to a racial disparity in educational funds provided for each student – even when comparing districts with similar rates of poverty.
The law prohibits institutions that receive federal funding from discriminating against racial minorities, including through seemingly neutral policies that have a disparate impact on minorities. Though public schools are subject to the law, vast racial inequality persists in Pennsylvania’s schools. While providing a high-quality education to affluent, mostly white communities, our public schools are failing in Pennsylvania’s poor and minority communities.