These Three Bucks County Republicans Voted Against the Pennsylvania House Bill to Fix the State’s Unconstitutional Education Funding

HB 2370 charts a seven-year funding plan to ensure that the unconstitutional underfunding of school districts disproportionately represented by lower income and communities of color ends.
(L-R) Bucks County Republican State Representatives Shelby Labs, Kristin Marcell, and Craig Staats.

Despite a court mandate to fix the commonwealth’s unconstitutional underfunding of school districts, Republican State Representatives Kristin Marcell, Shelby Labs, and Craig Staats voted against a bill that would do just that while benefiting all public school students in Bucks County and across the state. 

Thankfully the legislation passed anyway 107-94. 

The Democratic-controlled Pennsylvania House of Representatives made history Monday when it passed a school funding bill that is expected to erase the historic unconstitutional and unequal funding of school districts. Bucks County Democratic Representatives Tim Brennan, Tina Davis, Brian Munroe, Jim Prokopiak, Perry Warren all voted for HB 2370, along with local Republicas Joe Hogan and K.C. Tomlinson who bucked the anti-public education hardliners controlling the PA GOP. Only five Republicans voted for the legislation. 

“We are headed towards a before and after moment for the children of Pennsylvania,” said Public Interest Law Center senior attorney Dan Urevick-Ackelsberg. “The most unfair school funding system in the nation will be no more, as thousands of new teachers, counselors, librarians, and school nurses deliver what every child deserves: the opportunity to thrive. We urge the Senate to promptly pass this bill.”

The Commonwealth Court ruled in February 2023 that the state’s educational funding was unconstitutional as “students attending low-wealth districts are being deprived of equal protection of law.” This is because the current funding scheme largely relies on local property taxes, with the state only providing about one-third of all public school funding. The PA GOP argued on the other side of the lawsuit initially filed by several parents, school districts, and advocacy groups in 2014, so their opposition doesn’t come as much of a surprise. In fact, one of their arguments is that fair funding might rob the state of low-wage workers.

“What use would someone on the McDonald’s career track have for Algebra 1?” asked GOP attorney John Krill at the trial. “The question in my mind is, thorough and efficient to what end? To serve the needs of the commonwealth. Lest we forget, the commonwealth has many needs. There’s a need for retail workers, for people who know how to flip a pizza crust.” 

READ: Pennsylvania’s School Funding Scheme Creates a Permanent Underclass. That May Be the Point

The state legislature since then has been under the obligation to devise and pass an adequate, and constitutional, funding plan.  

“We applaud members of the House for adopting this breakthrough legislation. Pennsylvania students have waited decades for such decisive action,” said Education Law Center legal director Maura McInerney. “This bill is a transformative long-term plan to finally close the state’s glaring, unconstitutional resource gaps. It creates meaningful, new opportunities for our children and their futures by substantially increasing state funding to underfunded districts each year for seven years.”

Here’s what it delivers:

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Next stop is the state Senate, where a vote is expected by the end of the month, and where the chance of any Republicans crossing the aisle is very slim. 

READ: Private School Vouchers ‘Undermine’ Pennsylvania’s Public Schools. Conservative Lobbyist Groups Want To Keep It That Way

“Today could be the start of a new and just future for public school funding in Pennsylvania,” said Stacey Taylor, president of the NAACP Pennsylvania state conference. “Black students and students of color have borne the brunt of Pennsylvania’s unconstitutional and inequitable public school funding system, and they are more likely to be educated in schools that have been deeply shortchanged. Today’s plan to base public school funding on student need, not local wealth, could begin to right this deep wrong.”

It will be a false start if Republicans don’t set aside partisan politics and work with Democrats for the common good of commonwealth students. 

“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 … Every school district under this bill will be able to get historic investments,” said House Speaker Rep. Joanna McClinton.

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Cyril Mychalejko

Cyril Mychalejko is the Editor-in-Chief of the Bucks County Beacon. Read his columns on Sundays and follow him on Twitter.

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