What is happening with the state budget is complicated, so let’s start with some of the great news and substantial wins you helped make happen.

Cyber charter reform passes out of the PA House in a historic vote and will move to the Senate!!

Thanks to years of advocacy and hard work in every corner of the commonwealth, the PA House finally passed a cyber charter school bill that will match the tuition districts pay to cybers with cybers’ actual costs–saving more than $450 million in taxpayer money each year. This legislation also enacts much-needed and commonsense reforms to ensure additional accountability in the cyber charter sector.

House Bill 1422, the cyber charter reform bill, passed the PA House with a bipartisan vote of 122-81.

It is now up to the Republican-controlled Senate to decide whether they will put HB 1422 up for a vote or ignore it and continue to support the egregious waste, fraud, and abuse of tax dollars by cyber charters.

Click HERE for a summary of House Bill 1422

Thanks to advocates and House Democrats (and with a promise from Gov. Shapiro), school vouchers will NOT be part of the 2023-2024 state budget.

The hundreds of phone calls you made and thousands of emails you sent helped to stop school vouchers in their tracks. Without your advocacy, we could be looking at the beginning of a billionaire-backed plan to replace our public school system with taxpayer-funded vouchers in the commonwealth. THANK YOU!!!!

What happened with the vouchers.

On Friday, June 30th, the Senate moved their “PASS Scholarship” DeVos voucher bill to the House Rules Committee, where it was SOUNDLY REJECTED by Democrats along a party-line vote of 18-15.

On the same day, the Senate passed Senate Bill 611, the Senate’s state budget bill, sent it to the PA House, and announced that they were going home until September 18th.

With no mechanism to distribute the voucher funding in SB 611 because the “PASS” scholarship bill was voted down in committee, Governor Shapiro made a public promise that if the PA House passed the Senate budget–SB 611–he would line-item veto the $100 million that had been appropriate for “PASS” scholarship vouchers before signing the bill into law.

On Wednesday, July 5th, trusting that Governor Shapiro would veto funding for the vouchers as he had promised, the PA House approved SB 611 by a vote of 117-86 with all Democrats and some Republicans voting for the bill.

What is in the 2023-2024 budget that was passed by the House and Senate?

New investments in education in the 2023-2024 budget approved by the House and Senate include:

  • A $567 million increase (7.8%) in basic education funding,
  • A $50 million increase (3.7%) in special education funding.
  • $100 million for Level Up, targeted to 100 of the most underfunded districts.
  • A $14 million increase (13%) in career and technical education, plus a $9.5 million increase in CTE equipment grants.
  • A $10.4 million increase (3%) for early intervention for children three to five, and an early intervention increase of $15.4 million (9%) for children birth to three.
  • No new funding was included for pre-K, school facilities, or environmental repairs.

What happens next?

The PA Senate now needs to return to Harrisburg to sign the budget bill. The House and Senate also need to approve code bills that will detail how new funding streams in the budget should be allocated. The Senate leadership sent their members home until September 18th and has not indicated if or when they might return earlier than that date to sign the budget and send it to Governor Shapiro’s desk for his signature. So we wait for Governor Shapiro’s line item veto of the vouchers and his signature on a voucher-free 2023-2024 state budget.

For perspective on this budget decision please read The PA Schools Work statement about the budget below.

“The House passage of a state budget in reliance on Governor Shapiro’s commitment to line-item veto an appropriation for the controversial proposal to create the ‘PASS’ or ‘lifeline’ voucher program is the only pragmatic outcome to avoid the unacceptable use of public dollars for private schools. Pennsylvania legislators must now begin working towards addressing the recent court decision ruling that the state is not providing a ‘thorough and efficient system of public education for all PA students.’

“Democrats in the state House and its leadership team deserve credit for stopping an attempt to ram through this unaccountable giveaway to private schools that would undermine our public schools rather than strengthen them. We commend Democrats in the state Senate who stood strong for the 1.7 million Pennsylvania public school students, as well. Education advocates also recognize and commend House Democrats for passing an initial budget more in line with the kind of investment for public education necessary to begin to close our education funding gap.

“The final budget this year does not move Pennsylvania closer to compliance with the public school funding lawsuit ruling. While the budget includes spending increases for basic education, special education, and the Level Up initiative benefiting the state’s most underfunded districts, the funding levels for public schools in this budget are far below the House-passed appropriation, and barely keep pace with inflation. When coupled with the court decision, the $12 billion available in state surplus and reserves this year offered a rare opportunity for legislators and the governor to make a significant dent in that funding gap. That opportunity was squandered thanks to an intransigent Senate.

“While the new private school voucher program will not be implemented this coming fiscal year, that doesn’t change the fact that billionaires from outside Pennsylvania played an outsized role in budget negotiations, demanding that Senate Republicans hold the budget hostage in order to achieve their goals. Our lawmakers, from the governor on down, must recognize this effort for what it is: the first step in a Betsy DeVos-backed long-term plan to replace our public school system with taxpayer-funded vouchers. We will continue to fight alongside elected leaders and others who support quality public education against voucher programs that siphon taxpayer dollars away from our underfunded public schools.

“Going forward, the House, Senate, and governor must promptly reset the focus to a long-term plan for fixing the broken and unconstitutional public school funding system – particularly through the Basic Education Funding Commission – which is the only way to provide adequate opportunities for all students, regardless of their communities’ local wealth.”

We will keep you apprised of anything happening in Harrisburg that will impact education funding in the 2023-2024 state budget, including when the PA Senate returns to Harrisburg so that the budget can be finalized and enacted.

We will also let you know when Governor Shapiro line item vetoes the vouchers out of the budget bill before signing it.

We cannot overstate how important advocates’ work has been in helping to protect and defend public education this budget season. We’ll be sending a couple of emails with to unpack a lot of this and to share spreadsheets with the funding individual districts will receive next week. For now, pat yourself on the back for a job well done supporting and defending public education in PA!!