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Parents Sue Pa. For Failing to Examine Philadelphia School Districts' Problems

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A group of parents filed a lawsuit Tuesday claiming that the Pennsylvania Department of Education violated its legal obligation to investigate allegations of "massive curriculum deficiencies" in the Philadelphia School District.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the suit, which was filed in Commonwealth Court, includes seven parents of Philadelphia public school students in addition to the group Parents United for Public Education.

According to the story, the parents' concerns range from extreme classroom overcrowding to nonfunctioning, dirty bathrooms, which they say are linked to a reduction in state education funding that forced the city school system to make drastic budget cuts. The Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, which represents the parents in the suit, said in a news release that it also intends to file a separate statewide lawsuit to address education funding.

The education department received 825 complaints about Philadelphia public schools during the 2013-14 school year. According to the Inquirer, the state either never responded to the complaints or sent parents a form letter saying that their concerns should be addressed on a district level. The Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia and Parents United for Public Education started an online campaign last year encouraging parents to file complaints about the city schools' conditions. The website, which was re-launched during a press conference Wednesday, provides parents with an online form that is emailed directly to acting Education Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq.

"Teachers and counselors are trying their hardest with the limited resources they have, but if the state will not investigate what is going on in city schools, Philadelphia's kids will continue to suffer," Tim Allen, a parent involved in the lawsuit, said in a Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia news release.

Democratic State Sen. Vincent Hughes and Democratic State Sen. Shirley M. Kitchen, wrote a letter to Dumaresq urging her to "act quickly" to examine the parents' complaints about Philadelphia's schools. (Read the letter on Parents United for Public Education's website here.) Meanwhile, Tim Eller, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Education, told the Inquirer that he would not comment on pending litigation but added that the suit is being reviewed.

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