PA House Democrats pass historic education funding bill

PA House

Shown the is Pennsylvania House of Representatives in session at the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

By Sean Kitchen

June 10, 2024

The PA House Democrats passed a historic $5.1 billion education funding bill on Monday. It follows recommendations made after the Commonwealth Court decision and regulates cyber charter schools.

Pennsylvania House Democrats passed a historic education funding bill on Monday that brings the commonwealth one step closer to fulfilling its constitutional obligations to adequately fund public education.

The Commonwealth Court, a state appellate court, ruled in 2023 that Pennsylvania was not following its constitutional obligations to adequately fund public education.

“This bill reflects a historic moment for public education in Pennsylvania. The state representatives who have crafted it are true leaders in the fight to fix our unconstitutionally broken public school funding system,” Pennsylvania State Education Association President Aaron Chapin said in a statement.

“We are very grateful for their leadership and their commitment to adequate and equitable public education funding.”

House Bill 2370, which passed the House by a bipartisan 107 to 94 vote on Monday, follows the recommendations made by the bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission. It requires the state to provide $5.1 billion in education funding over the next 7 years and provide an additional $200 million per year, which will be distributed to school districts through the fair funding formula.

H.B. 2370 would also reign in spending from cyber charter schools in order to fund public schools. The bill caps tuition for students attending cyber charter schools at $8,000 per student, which would save school districts more than $500 million per year, and bans cyber charter schools from spending taxpayer funds on advertisements and sponsorships.

A recent report published by the Education Voters of Pennsylvania found that the commonwealth’s cyber charter schools spent over $21 million on advertising expenses and gift cards for the 2022-23 school year.

The report also found that assets and revenues for Pennsylvania’s four largest cyber charter schools – Agora Cyber Charter school, Commonwealth Charter Academy, Pennsylvania Cyber Charter and Reach Cyber Charter – grew by 92,000% between 2018 and 2022.

These four schools, which teach 75% of the students enrolled in Pennsylvania’s cyber charter schools, had a combined $566,858 in net assets in 2018 according to their 990 reports. That number grew to over $486 million by 2022.

H.B. 2370 advances to the Republican controlled Pennsylvania Senate and faces long odds of passing and making it to Gov. Josh Shapiro’s desk. However, that’s not stopping education advocates from applauding the House’s vote.

Public education advocates from a coalition of progressive organizations and labor unions held a rally outside the Pennsylvania State Capitol on Monday ahead of the historic vote.

“Today we are proud to vote out this afternoon House Bill 2370,” House Speaker Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia) said at a rally on Monday.

“That house bill is going to give $5 billion to our public schools all across the state. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Republican district. It doesn’t matter if it’s a rural district. It doesn’t matter if it’s an urban center. It doesn’t matter if it’s my constituent William Penn that filed the lawsuit. Every school district under this bill will be able to get historic investments.”

Author

  • Sean Kitchen

    Sean Kitchen is the Keystone’s political correspondent, based in Harrisburg. Sean is originally from Philadelphia and spent five years working as a writer and researcher for Pennsylvania Spotlight.

CATEGORIES: EDUCATION
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