For Immediate Release

February, 6, 2024

Governor Shapiro’s proposed, historic investment in public K-12 schools deserves strong support;  a new private school voucher program that could make these investments in public schools short lived must be opposed.

HARRISBURG, PA (February 6, 2024) –Susan Spicka, Executive Director of Education Voters of PA, made the following statement following Governor Josh Shapiro’s 2024-2025 state budget address:

Governor Shapiro’s proposed historic investment in public K-12 schools would benefit children and communities in every corner of the commonwealth by providing funding for additional teachers, librarians, aides, and other trained professionals in public schools to help children reach their potential and thrive. We look forward to working with advocates throughout Pennsylvania in helping to make this bold proposal a reality for Pennsylvania’s students. 

The proposed adequacy investment of $872 million, the first of seven needed installments required to meet constitutional compliance, would provide a substantial increase in resources for students who have been most harmed by  Pennsylvania’s unconstitutional school funding system. 

All school districts would benefit from the $200 million in Basic Education Funding and $50 million in special education funding that will be distributed via state formulas that are based on districts’ actual student populations and needs.  And an additional investment of $300 million in school facilities and continued investments in mental health supports will have a meaningful and direct benefit for students. 

The proposed flat rate for cyber charter school tuition for regular education students would return $262 million to school districts and finally bring some relief to taxpayers in every district in the commonwealth by reducing state-mandated tuition overpayments to cyber charter schools. 

Unfortunately, Governor Shapiro’s continued call for the state legislature to support a new school voucher program means that the benefits from these investments in public schools could be short lived.  

Private school voucher programs that give tax dollars directly to families can be expanded with the stroke of a pen to strip out accountability and include universal eligibility, exploding costs for taxpayers, gutting funding for public schools, and creating endless opportunities for waste, fraud, and abuse. We only need to look at what is happening in  Ohio, Arizona, FloridaIowa, and other states to understand what we will eventually face in Pennsylvania if a new voucher program is enacted.

If  Governor Shapiro sincerely wants additional tax dollars to pay for low-income students to attend (or at least have the opportunity to apply to) Pennsylvania’s discriminatory private schools, he doesn’t need a new voucher program to do this. Pennsylvania already spends $490 million each year on vouchers for private schools through the  Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) programs. 

Working with lawmakers, Shapiro could reduce the family income eligibility limit in the EITC and OSTC programs and require audits that would enforce these limits. These simple actions would redirect millions of dollars to supporting the private education of low-income students without any increase in tax funding or the creation of a new program that would be primed to expand to provide universal vouchers in the commonwealth in the future.