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March 2015 Update
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia  
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Garden Justice Update: Grounded Redesign and Vacant Land Event

Vacant Land Information Session
The Law Center's web mapping and organizing tool is now redesigned and updated to increase access to vacant land data for residents looking to transform vacant land for community use. Philadelphia's vacant land remains one of the city's most visible challenges, with an estimated 40,000 public and private vacant lots across the city. Grounded in Philly brings together the information residents need to start the process to obtain legal access to vacant land or preserve their long-time garden. In addition to providing information online, the Law Center is committed to working with community organizations to bring resources to residents in person. On Tuesday, March 10th, in cooperation with the New Kensington CDC, we gathered more than 90 residents for a "Vacant Land Information Session."
School Funding Lawsuit Update: Oral Argument Recap
Press conference after oral argument
On March 11, together with the Education Law Center and O'Melveny & Myers LLP, we presented oral argument in our school funding lawsuit before seven Commonwealth Court judges. The question to be decided by the Court is whether the legislature's failure to provide sufficient funding for public education is a matter that can be decided by the Court; or whether the legislature is free to take whatever steps it thinks appropriate. Counsel for the legislative leaders argued that the legislature has fulfilled its obligation to provide a "thorough and efficient system of education" just by appropriating enough money to the school to open and turn the lights on. We argued that a Court can and should determine whether the legislature has provided the funding needed for the educational system the legislature has set up. After the Court rules, the party that did not prevail is likely to appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Click here for more information on this case.
Special Ed Update: City Council Briefing and Final 2014-2015 seminar
On March 27, staff attorney Sonja Kerr, along with more than 20 other special education and disability rights organizations, briefed City Council on the needs of children with disabilities in Philadelphia. The briefing was designed to help Council members understand how they can help families access critical services.

In addition to briefing elected officials, we continue to offer trainings for parents, teachers, attorneys, and advocates. Our final seminar of this school year will take place on April 21st. Attendees will learn about discrimination claims, post-secondary schools and the professions in this session entitled "Your Right to a Fair Shot." You'll learn how federal law aids students with disabilities who do not qualify for special education services, hear about recent cases, and understand strategies for getting students services. Click here to purchase your tickets.
Housing Update: Law Center Clients Take on Banking Industry
for-sale-home.jpgWe filed an amicus brief on behalf of Pennsylvania legal service providers and consumer advocates in opposition to briefs filed by the finance service industry in an important Third Circuit Court of Appeals case. This case, brought by the Montgomery County Recorder of Deeds, challenges the banking industry's system of privately transferring mortgages. The industry has circumvented millions of dollars in fees owed to the state of Pennsylvania by using a private recording system known as Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. or MERS. In addition to hiding information that should be public, banks are systemically underfunding important services for people living in poverty. A significant portion of the avoided fees would go to support civil legal aid and affordable housing.
Education Update: Gov. Wolf's Budget and Education Funding
Governor Tom Wolf unveiled his 2015-2016 budget proposal, which contains historic state education funding. If adopted and distributed fairly, this investment would significantly shift Pennsylvania toward the thorough and efficient system of public education mandated by our state's constitution and needed by our children. The Governor has not, however, proposed using a formula to distribute the investment. He has stated that he will work with the Basic Education Funding Commission this summer to create a funding formula for the 2016-2017 school year. The Campaign for Fair Education Funding, of which we are a leading member, proposed a student-driven funding formula that strategically directs funding to students and school districts with the greatest needs and provides the investment necessary to enable every child to succeed academically. Click here to learn more about the campaign's proposal.
Pro Bono Spotlight: The Philadelphia Project
Sonja Kerr, lawyers from Dechert LLP, and clients in a class action special education case

This month we want to recognize the continued efforts of the firms assisting us in The Philadelphia Project, our project to transform the system for educating children with disabilities in the School District of Philadelphia and to secure significant improvements in the quality of their education. Thank you to the pro bono attorneys who have assisted the Law Center from Dechert LLP, Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, Kessler Topaz Meltzer & Check, LLP, and McCarter & English, LLP!

Board Member of the Month: Joseph B.G. Fay
Joseph B.G. Fay
Joe Fay from Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP is our March Board Member of the Month. He serves on the Law Center's Governance and Litigation Committees. About working with the Law Center, he said, "There are few things to which one can devote time and energy that create the unqualified satisfaction of simply 'doing good.' To be involved in such an endeavor with the kind of intelligent, dedicated, and well-spirited people who work at the Law Center is a privilege." Congratulate Joe by liking his post on our Facebook page!
Law Center News: Follow us on Social Media and Further Reading
What you see here is only a portion of the work the Law Center has done over the past month. You can read more about our work below, but make sure to follow us on social media for daily updates!

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More news:


April 8-9, 2015 (Amy Laura Cahn to Present April 8th)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015, 1:00 - 4:00 P.M.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015, 6:00 - 8:30 P.M.

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