Harrisburg, Pa., September 14, 2023 — Philadelphia education pioneer and Commonwealth Foundation Distinguished Senior Fellow David Hardy delivered powerful testimony to the state Senate Education Committee on Monday, reminding lawmakers that the Lifeline Scholarship Program, also referred to as the Pennsylvania Award for Student Success (PASS), would restore “fairness” to the education system.
Hardy, who helped launch two top-performing Philadelphia charter schools before becoming interim president at the K–12 Girard College, lamented that the opportunities available to wealthy residents are denied to struggling students in impoverished areas. Lifeline Scholarships/PASS, he said, and school choice reforms are essential for all children to get a good education.
In a neighborhood where they have a Blue Ribbon public school and an excellent private school, people are still looking for more options because that’s what you do when you have resources. You find the very best option for your child.
If you don’t have resources, you’re stuck with whatever is on the corner of your block, and sometimes you know that’s not a good option because you went to that school, your parents may have gone to that school, and you know your child’s not getting a good chance in that school, but you don’t have the option. And this is where I think this whole thing is about—it’s a matter of fairness.
We know that in order to get a good education, you need to have a wide range of options. And we know that people who have resources use that or people who have connections can find a way or if your child is lucky enough to get a scholarship, you might get out. But for the most part, if you’re poor and you don’t have those alternatives, you’re stuck in something that you absolutely know doesn’t work. …
You can want to send your child to a better school here, but if they don’t have seats available, if they don’t have space available, or if you’re trying to get your child into a school but there’s no money to follow it, you’re stuck. … The system keeps people in these bad schools. They’re not advocating to be in those bad schools.
Gov. Josh Shapiro, who had previously agreed to fund Lifeline Scholarships/PASS, used his line-item veto to strike the program from the state budget at the behest of Pennsylvania House Democrats. Yet, the 2023–24 budget remains unfinished until both the House and Senate pass the fiscal code directing spending.
In August, the Senate passed fiscal code legislation to restore program funding, which would allow students in the state’s worst-performing schools to access Lifeline Scholarships/PASS, which they could then apply to education alternatives. Meanwhile, the House plans to reconvene on September 26. A delay tactic against the school choice initiative that also threatens many Democrat priorities, including Level Up funding for school districts.
Hardy’s full appearance can be found here, beginning at the 54:52 mark.
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