June 2015 Update
The Public Interest Law Center 

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In this update:
Philly School Complaints Case Moves Forwardschool
Staff attorney Amy Laura Cahn discusses the case at a 2014 press conference

We are pleased that the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania has decided that the Pennsylvania Department of Education is required to investigate complaints filed by parents about school curriculum. During the 2013-2014 school year, we partnered with Parents United for Public Education to help parents and educators in Philadelphia file more than 800 such complaints, which documented the effects of years of underfunding. When state officials denied responsibility, or failed to respond at all, we filed suit to ensure that responsibility for public education be placed squarely where our state constitution has placed it-on the state. Read More

Save the date for our annual cocktail party on Tuesday, September 29 from 6 - 8:30 p.m. at Fringe Args/LaPeg! This year's theme is "In Pursuit of the Promise: Education for All." We will honor our clients in our school funding lawsuit and board member H. Laddie Montague of Berger & Montague, P.C. Read More

Deadline for Fellowship Applications is July 6thfellowship
We are currently accepting applications for candidates for post-graduate public interest fellowships to be sponsored by the Public Interest Law Center. We are accepting these applications through midnight on July 6th. Staff will work with interested candidates to develop projects in one or more of our six areas: Education (including Special Education), Employment, Environmental Justice, Health Care, Housing, and Voting. Projects addressing housing and environmental justice are of particular interest for the 2015 application cycle. Information on which fellowship organizations we often work with and how to apply is on our website. Read More
Improving Language Access in Philly Schoolslanguage

Parents of an estimated 20,000 children in the School District of Philadelphia need access to translation and interpretation services to fully participate in their students' educational programming. But the District too often fails to provide such services, which are especially important to parents of children with special needs. We are taking on this issue. We persuaded a hearing officer that half-way measures in the special education context are insufficient and, along with lawyers from Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP and the Education Law Center, we are preparing a class action lawsuit to remedy this situation. Read More

Advocating Against Tax Lien Auctiontaxes

Along with dozens of other organizations, we recently joined on a letter to Mayor Michael Nutter requesting that the City of Philadelphia postpone an auction of tax liens that put some community gardens at risk and undermined the new Land Bank by adding new barriers to acquiring land and putting properties back into productive use. We argued that these risks are not offset by any real economic benefits because the sale of long-vacant lands is unlikely to bring in any new funds. Using the data and our website tool, Grounded in Philly, we were able to identify established community gardens on the list and reach out to them to alert them their tax liens were up for auction. Read more

Law Center to Receive Prestigious Award from NAACPaward
Members of the NAACP PA State Conference at our Annual Event last year

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) selected the Public Interest Law Center to receive this year's Juanita Jackson Mitchell Award for "outstanding service to the NAACP and its constituents in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania." Presentation of the award will take place on July 13. We are humbled and honored by this extraordinary award. Read More

Real Wages, Real Work for People with Disabilitiesworkshops

An article on sheltered workshops by Independence Fellow Julie Foster and staff attorney Sonja Kerr was featured in The Legal Intelligencer on May 29. The article explains the plight of approximately 13,000 Pennsylvanians with disabilities who labor in more than 100 segregated sheltered workshops, performing menial repetitive tasks, for an average of $2.40 an hour. Read More

New Board Members and Officers bod
New Board Officers

At our annual meeting in May, the Board of Directors voted to welcome three new members: Anthony Gay (PECO/Exelon), Colby Smith (Morgan Lewis & Bockius, LLP) and Karen Vaughn (Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia). The board also elected new officers: Brian Feeney has succeeded Eric Rothschild as board chair; Lea Knight was elected vice chair; and Ellen Friedell and Marc Topaz were elected treasurer and secretary, respectively. The board and staff also expressed gratitude to Nicole Perkins and Joe Fay, who completed terms as board members. Read More

Eric Rothschild: Board Member of the Month eric
Eric and his commemorative "thank you" basketball (in honor of his love of all things basketball and Duke)
Eric Rothschild is a partner in the litigation and dispute resolution department at Pepper Hamilton LLP. He served as chair of our Board of Directors for four years, until our annual meeting in May. Under Eric's leadership the organization has made significant strides toward financial sustainability. We thank Eric for his dedication and service! He said of his time with the Public Interest Law Center, "I enjoy my membership on the board because Public Interest Law Center lawyers and staff are always punching above their weight to impact civil rights and equality for the citizens of Pennsylvania." Read More
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