pa schools myths

Pennsylvania’s Most Common Education Choice Myths—Debunked

Harrisburg, Pa., January 4, 2024 — The Commonwealth Foundation today released a report addressing the most common myths about education spending, the success of educational choice programs, and the need for programs like Lifeline Scholarships.

Lifeline Scholarships, also known as the Pennsylvania Award for Student Success (PASS) Program, would offer scholarships ranging from $2,500 to $15,000 per year for students in the commonwealth’s lowest-performing public schools, enabling them to attend a school of their choice. The Pennsylvania legislature included Lifeline Scholarships/PASS in the 2023–24 state budget. However, Gov. Josh Shapiro, a Lifeline Scholarships/PASS supporter, vetoed the legislation to appease state House legislators opposed to school choice.

Among the issues addressed in the report:

  • Pennsylvania has not slashed public school funding.State support of public schools has increased by $5.4 billion in the last decade to an all-time high of $15.5 billion in the 2023–24 fiscal year.
  • Lifeline Scholarships/PASS do not take money away from public education. School districts would not lose a penny even when students leave district schools with Lifeline Scholarships/PASS. The Lifeline Scholarship/PASS legislation passed by the Senate creates a new state fund, separate from public education subsidies. This legislation would have no impact on funding for public schools.
  • Pennsylvania voters want school choice. Polling shows broad support for expanding school choice, including Lifeline Scholarships/PASS. According to a recent poll, fewer than one in five respondents would choose a public district school if cost were no concern, and more than half would choose a private school.

“Conversations around educational choice are replete with misconceptions and outright falsehoods—particularly regarding funding and outcomes. That must change,” said Commonwealth Foundation Director of Policy Analysis Elizabeth Stelle. “Programs like Lifeline Scholarships/PASS would strengthen Pennsylvania education by giving parents, irrespective of income, the power to choose the best school for their children. We urge Shapiro to see through the myths surrounding educational choice and pass Lifeline Scholarships/PASS.”

Read the Commonwealth Foundation’s “Lifeline and Education Choice Myths and Facts” report here.


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