lifeline scholarships senate education committee

Pa. Senate Committee Advances Lifeline Scholarships for Students in Failing Schools

Harrisburg, Pa., May 7, 2024 — Today, the Pennsylvania Senate Education Committee advanced Senate Bill (SB) 795, a bill to establish Lifeline Scholarships for children in failing schools. Sponsored by state Sen. Judy Ward, the legislation passed with bipartisan support by a vote of 8 to 3, marking a crucial step toward providing more educational options and protecting vulnerable students throughout the commonwealth.

Commonwealth Foundation Vice President Stephen Bloom issued the following statement in response:

“The Commonwealth Foundation applauds Sen. Judy Ward and Senate leaders for their unwavering dedication to rescuing kids trapped in failing schools. Time and again, Senate Republicans have championed the belief that all children deserve access to a quality education, regardless of their income or zip code. Today is no different.

“The advancement of SB 795 represents a significant win in the ongoing fight for educational freedom. But more than that, this movement of the bill marks a crucial first step in state budget negotiations. This committee vote illustrates the Senate’s commitment to Lifeline Scholarships and the immediate relief the program would provide for students struggling in Pennsylvania’s worst-performing schools. These institutions continue to lag behind, despite school district revenue increasing to $37 billion last year alone—and 30 percent since 2013.

“The Lifeline Scholarship program would establish Education Opportunity Accounts for families to use toward tutoring, private school tuition, or other educational tools that best meet their kids’ individual needs. Among Pennsylvanians, the program is overwhelmingly popular. According to our latest polling, 77 percent of registered voters in the commonwealth support the proposal. Lifeline Scholarships also boast legitimate bipartisan backing, with Gov. Josh Shapiro, Senator Anthony Williams, and other Democrats voicing support for the program.

“Last budget, this bipartisanship nearly culminated in a compromise between Senate Republicans and Governor Shapiro—an agreement that would have enacted Lifeline Scholarships and protected many of our state’s most vulnerable children. But House Majority Leader Matt Bradford dashed those hopes by blocking the deal from advancing.

“Our kids deserve better. We now call on the full Senate to support this critical lifeline for Pennsylvania students. As the governor noted, budget negotiations ‘will need to be about scholarships that let poor families put their kids in the best position to succeed.’ The Commonwealth Foundation urges him to remain true to his word so that rescuing students from failing schools will no longer be considered ‘unfinished business.’”


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