Senate Republicans in Harrisburg just announced that implementing a new school voucher program is their top priority in the 2023-2024 state budget. They are fast tracking a “Lifeline Scholarship” bill (Senate Bill 795) that would create a brand new voucher program IN ADDITION TO the current $340 million/year EITC/OSTC private school voucher programs.
Governor Shapiro has also affirmed his support for school vouchers for unaccountable private and religious schools. This week acting secretary of education, Dr. Khalid Mumin, wrote in a Q&A letter to members of the Senate Education Committee that Shapiro, “favors adding choices for parents and education opportunity for students and funding lifeline scholarships as long as those choices do not impact school district funding.”
With budget negotiations heating up, we need to tell Governor Shapiro and state lawmakers to REJECT the “Lifeline Scholarship” voucher scheme NOW.
☎️ Better yet, find the phone numbers of your state senator and representatives HERE and give them a quick call. If it is after hours, leave a message!☎️
Tell the staffer who answers the phone:
“Hello, this is <your name> and I am Governor Shapiro/Senator/Representative XX’s constituent. I am calling to ask Governor Shapiro/Senator/Representative XX to reject Lifeline Scholarships for private and religious schools and to support adequate, equitable, and constitutional funding for public schools.”
A recent Commonwealth Court ruling found that Pennsylvania’s grossly inadequate and inequitable system for funding public education is unconstitutional. The legislature and governor have been tasked with fixing the public school funding system so that it will comply with the constitutional mandate and “provide for every student to receive a meaningful opportunity to succeed academically, socially, and civically, which requires that all students have access to a comprehensive, effective, and contemporary system of public education.”
“Lifeline Scholarships” would undermine the commonwealth’s ability to provide adequate, equitable, and constitutional funding to our public schools. Every dollar spent paying for a student’s private school tuition bill is a dollar that cannot be invested into our public schools.
The billionaire-funded school privatization lobby is spending a fortune to pressure lawmakers to support “Lifeline Scholarships.” There is a mobile billboard circling the Capitol, lobbyists are swarming the halls, and expensive digital and TV ads are everywhere.
And it is easy to understand why.
“Lifeline scholarships” would create a new mechanism to undermine our public schools by funneling state funding into unaccountable private and religious institutions AND they would create a new subsidy to pay the private and religious school tuition bills of well-off families.
Nothing would prevent affluent “Lifeline Scholarship” recipients from double dipping into the EITC/OSTC voucher pot to get BIG TIME MONEY to pay their kids’ tuition bills.
The basics in SB 795, the “Lifeline Scholarship” bill:
This program would be run by the PA Treasury and funded by the state. Money would be deposited into an account for families and could be used to pay tuition, school-related fees, and special education services fees for attendance at a participating nonpublic school.
A school age child who lives in the attendance boundary of a low-achieving school as defined in the EITC/OSTC program (a public school that ranked in the lowest 15% based on combined math and reading scores from the annual state assessment administered in the previous school year) upon initial application.
Students must attend a public school the year before they receive the voucher, receive a scholarship under the program the preceding year, or be entering kindergarten.
The student could move to a better-performing area and qualify for future years.
There is no income limit for students who receive the “Lifeline Scholarships.”
Funding for the 23-24 school year:
- For a student in ½ day kindergarten: $2,500.
- For a student in full-day kindergarten through grade 8: $5,000.
- For a student in grades 9-12: $10,000.
- For a student with special needs (regardless of grade): $15,000.