Pennsylvania Legislature Moves Forward with Equitable Education Funding Bill

Harrisburg, CapitolCredit: Commonwealth Media Services

HARRISBURG, PA — In a move to overhaul the state’s education funding system, Pennsylvania House Representative Paul Friel, D-Chester, recently voted in committee to progress a piece of legislation, H.B. 2370, aiming to ensure adequacy, equity, and stability in the state’s educational funding system.

The bill, now primed for a full vote in the House, is predicted to have significant consequences for budget negotiations and the future of education across the state. Friel, acting as secretary of the PA House Education Committee, emphasized that the legislative proposal reflects the key recommendations forwarded by the Basic Education Funding Commission earlier in the year.

H.B. 2370 suggests numerous amendments to the Public School Code of 1949, including new provisions for advertising and sponsorships, a reiteration of definitions, charter school requirements, and the funding framework for charter schools. Additionally, the legislation provides for funding for cyber charter schools and introduces provisions for their requirements and regulations.

Furthermore, the bill seeks to introduce public reporting and annual reports, mandate fund balance limits, and provide for access to other schools’ facilities. It also issues parameters for enrollment and enrollee wellness checks.

Broadly, as Friel stated, the proposed legislation would commit the legislature to gradually instate adequate and equitable public education funding over a period of seven years. The bill incorporates cyber-charter reforms, which Friel states “are essential for ensuring the transparency, responsibility and accountability we should expect for taxpayer-funded education.”

Moreover, Friel explained, the bill aims to furnish Pennsylvania students with the crucial educational resources that they are entitled to and require from a constitutional standpoint. The legislation comes in the wake of a court ruling that demanded the closure of educational inequities for students, especially those hailing from low-wealth districts.

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It is projected that the bill will provide robust increases in funding over the course of seven years, including $5.1 billion for chronically underfunded schools, $3.7 billion in savings for cyber charter schools, $1.4 billion through a fair funding formula applicable to all public schools, and $955 million in property tax relief.

In terms of annual increments, the increases proposed for 2024/25 include $728 million for underfunded schools, $530 million in savings for cyber charter institutions, $200 million to ensure every school district receives a funding boost, and $136 million in property tax respite.

This legislative initiative follows the Basic Education Funding Commission’s report in January, which outlined a clear strategy to meet Pennsylvania’s constitutional obligation of providing quality education to all its students. The commission acknowledged unprecedentedly the unequal and unconstitutional funding system and proposed substantial reforms.

This also echoes last year’s ruling by the Commonwealth Court that the General Assembly has not met its constitutional obligation to provide a comprehensive, effective, and modern system of public education that does not discriminate against students based on income level and the value of taxable property in their school districts.

With the passing of this bill, Pennsylvania could potentially usher in a new era of equitability and adequacy in educational funding, making significant strides towards fulfilling its constitutional obligation and ensuring a brighter educational future for all its students.

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