lifeline scholarship bill

 Pa. House Committee Passes Student Scholarship Bill

March 29, 2022, Harrisburg, Pa. — Today, the Pennsylvania House Education Committee approved a bill to offer Lifeline Scholarships to students in underperforming school districts. HB 2169, sponsored by Reps. Clint Owlett and Martina White, would offer a scholarship to any public school student in the bottom 15 percent of lowest-performing schools. 

The vote comes after statewide test scores confirm staggering student learning loss since COVID-19 school closures began, with now 78 percent of eighth-graders not proficient in math and 47 percent not proficient in language arts. While learning loss impacted all students, studies show that minority students have suffered the most.  

“The quality of a child’s education should not be determined by his or her zip code,” said Senior Vice President of the Commonwealth Foundation Nathan Benefield. “Lifeline Scholarships give low-income students trapped in the lowest-performance schools access to better educational opportunities.”

Lifeline Scholarships are restricted-use accounts that families can only use for educational expenses, such as tuition, curriculum, and tutoring. The scholarships give recipients the state portion of the per-student funding, while all the local and federal funds remain with district schools even as students leave. The Lifeline Scholarship would be approximately $6,700, and school districts would retain $12,400 of the $19,200 in per-student funding for every student that pursues an alternative educational option.

An overwhelming, bipartisan majority of Americans support educational choice policies, especially with cases of students stuck in failing public schools. Pennsylvania’s educational choice programs are popular, with parental demand for the programs far exceeding supply. In 2019–20, arbitrary state program caps resulted in denial of more than 75,000 K–12 student applications for tax credit scholarships.

The committee voted 14-10, with all Republicans except Rep. Meghan Schroeder (Bucks) voting in favor to advance the Lifeline Scholarship Program to the House floor.

Commonwealth Foundation experts are available for comment. Please contact Stefanie Mason at [email protected] or 414-418-5132 to schedule an interview. 


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