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Education Bill Awaits Vote in State Senate

By Danielle M. Smith - Public News Service
The Tube City Almanac
July 02, 2024
Posted in: State & Region

A bill to increase Pennsylvania public school funding by billions of dollars passed the state General Assembly and is awaiting a vote in the state Senate.

House Bill 2370 proposes more than $5 billion extra in funding for the next seven years. It has been referred to the state Senate’s education committee and has not been scheduled for a vote.

Aaron Chapin, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, a union representing more than 187,000 teachers and other school employees, said if the bill is signed into law, it would boost school funding and reflect critical elements of the Basic Education Funding Commission’s majority report.

PSEA strongly supported that report, which was released in January.

“Essentially what it said is that 74 percent of our school districts — that’s 371 districts out of 500 — are underfunded at the state level,” said Chapin. “And that means that hundreds of thousands of students across Pennsylvania, they’re getting shortchanged by their state, and their schools are not getting the resources that more affluent districts have.”

The bill passed the state General Assembly 107-94.

Among Mon-Yough area legislators, state Reps. Matt Gergely (Democrat, McKeesport), Brandon Markosek (Democrat, Monroeville), Nick Pisciottano (Democrat, West Mifflin) and Abigail Salisbury (Democrat, Swissvale) all voted yes, while state Rep. Andrew Kuzma (Republican, Elizabeth Twp.) voted no.

House Bill 2370 also reflects the recommendations in Gov. Josh Shapiro’s proposed fiscal 2024-25 budget, which suggests a $1.1 billion funding increase for Pennsylvania's public schools.

Chapin said the funding from HB 2370 will also help address the teacher shortage in Pennsylvania by allowing schools to offer competitive compensation.

“The bill says that districts may use funding to increase minimum salaries for professional employees to $60,000 a year, and minimum wages for support professionals for at least $20 an hour,” said Chapin. “And what that’s really going to do is empower school districts to attract more qualified caring adults to the education profession.”

Chapin noted that the bill addresses the Commonwealth Court ruling that found Pennsylvania’s public school funding system unconstitutional.

He noted that the Basic Education Funding Commission traveled across the state and gathered input from educators, advocates and experts about the real needs of public schools.

“What that report said is that $9.5 billion in new state dollars need to be invested into our public schools over the next seven years,” said Chapin. “And that will help close the gaps from decades and generations of underfunding. House Bill 2370 implements that commission’s plan.”

Originally published July 02, 2024.

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