House Passes Comprehensive School Financing Plan

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed House Bill 2370 – draft act on financing primary education – on Monday, amending the state school code.

The final vote was 107 to 94 with two absences. Five Republicans voted for the bill – Representatives Joe Hogan (R-bucks), Aaron Kaufer (R-Luzerna), Jim Marshall (R-Beaver), Tomek Mehaffi (R-Dauphin) i KC Tomlinson (R-bucks). Rep. Joe Kerwin (R-Dauphin) i Representative David Zimmerman (R-Lancaster/Berks) were absent.

The bill — now headed to the Republican-controlled Senate — would implement a seven-year funding plan adopted in January by the state’s Basic Education Financing Commission. The plan was created in response to a landmark 2023 Commonwealth Court ruling that ordered state officials to develop a novel school financing system that ensures all students have access to a “comprehensive, effective and contemporary public education” – a system that is consistent with the state constitution and does not discriminate students from low-income communities.

“The House just passed a historic education funding formula that mirrors the one I proposed in my budget – a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something good for our children and build on the work of the Commission on Basic Education Financing,” Pennsylvania tweeted Governor Josh Shapiro. “And it passed with bipartisan support. Every child deserves the freedom to chart their own course and the opportunity to succeed. Let’s make it a reality.”

The legislation requires the state to boost funding levels for 367 underfunded districts by $5.1 billion over seven years to address adequacy gaps and provides $1 billion in financial relief to communities that have incurred weighty tax burdens due to state underfunding.

The House and Senate are legally required to agree on the 2024-25 budget by June 30, and school code updates are typically part of the budget process.

“Today, my colleagues in the House, in a bipartisan manner, passed monumental legislation that will change the way we fund education in Pennsylvania,” said the majority leader of the House Education Committee Peter Schweyer (D-Lehigh). “A fair and equitable education for every child in Pennsylvania has been a top priority for me since I became a lawyer, and it has been my most important goal since I became chairman of the House Education Committee last year.

“It goes beyond just the Lehigh Valley; this would affect schools across Pennsylvania. Children in Easton should have the same things as children in Saucon Valley. Children in Philadelphia should have the same opportunities as students in Lower Merion. Children in Harrisburg, York, Scranton, Reading and Bethlehem should absolutely have the same opportunities as children in suburban schools.”

“House Democrats’ basic education funding plan does nothing less than double down on a failing education system that represents the inability of state and local leaders to prioritize outcomes-based learning and make the necessary transformational changes to ensure success in the classroom that would truly ensure for an education system that focuses primarily on students and families,” said the House Minority Leader Representative Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster).

“House Republicans support increasing funding for basic education every budget cycle. However, while this proposal may pass the House today, we all know that there is still hard work ahead of us in making transformational changes in education.”

“We applaud members of the House for passing this landmark legislation. Pennsylvania students have waited decades for such decisive action,” said Education Law Center legal director Maura McInerney. “This bill is a long-term transformation plan designed to finally close glaring, unconstitutional gaps in state resources. Creates meaningful new opportunities for our children and their futures by significantly increasing state funding for underfunded districts every year for seven years.”

“We are heading towards a before-and-after moment for Pennsylvania children,” said senior attorney at the Public Interest Law Center Dan Urevick-Ackelsberg. “The most unfair school funding system in the country will no longer exist, as thousands of new teachers, counselors, librarians and school nurses will give every child what they deserve: a chance to thrive. We urge the Senate to quickly adopt this bill.”

This story will be updated

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