lifeline scholarships

Lifeline Scholarship Program/PASS

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Reasons for Lifeline Scholarships/PASS

  • Many of our local school districts do a phenomenal job, but thousands of children remain stuck in schools that persistently rank low for student achievement. According to the latest statewide assessments, nearly 75 percent of Pennsylvania eighth-graders are not proficient in math, and 47 percent are not proficient in language arts,[1] with pandemic learning loss being even more severe for minority students.
  • Among the bottom 15 percent of public schools, only 11 percent of students are proficient in math, and only 31 percent are proficient in English. In 15 of these schools, there were zero students doing math at grade level. The Lifeline Scholarship/PASS Program extends immediate relief to students in these lowest-performing public schools. The scholarships would directly fund students—not institutions—so students can choose the education that best fits their needs.
  • An overwhelming majority of parents want school choice. A 2023 poll revealed widespread support for educational choiceand, in particular, helping families in low-performing schools. Sixty-seven percent of registered voters support giving families EOAs to use for their children’s educational expenses.[2]

How Does the Lifeline Scholarship/PASS Program Work?

Lifeline Scholarship/PASS Program Would Educate Kids for Less Money

  • Lifeline Scholarships/PASS are significantly less expensive than the average 2021–22 per-pupil spending at public schools, which is over $21,200.[4]
  • The legislation provides $100 million for funding Lifeline Scholarships/PASS. The Treasury can use a percent of the EOA amount to pay the costs of overseeing and administering the program.
  • School districts would not lose a penny of funding even if students leave the school district with Lifeline Scholarships/PASS.
  • Studies show that competition from school choice alternatives helps kids who attend public schools. EdChoice found that 26 out of 29 empirical studies concluded that school choice programs improve the academic outcomes of public school students.[5] A recent study by the University of Arkansas found that, by exerting competitive pressure on public schools, school choice programs improve NAEP test scores across the board.[6]


  • The state treasurer would administer the EOA, much like the existing 529 program, with funding coming from the state education budget. The state treasurer, in collaboration with the Office of the Auditor General, would, at minimum, conduct annual, random audits of the student accounts.
  • Fraudulent misuse of funds would make students ineligible for future participation in the program. The Auditor General would refer cases to law enforcement agencies for further investigation.
  • The Treasury or any other state agency could not regulate the educational programs of participating schools.

Other States

EOAs, also referred to as Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), are currently or will be available to students in 15 states: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia. In 2023, seven states enacted new school choice programs, and 19 expanded existing programs.[7] This wave of new school choice legislation underscores the growing demand from parents for customizable, high-quality education options for their children.

[1]Commonwealth Foundation, “2023 PSSA Scores Highlight the Need for Educational Opportunity,” November 27, 2023,; Pennsylvania Department of Education, PSSA Results (2023), accessed November 10, 2023,

[2]Commonwealth Foundation, Common Ground in the Commonwealth Poll (March 2023), April 6. 2023,

[3]Pennsylvania Department of Education, Future Ready PA Index, Data Files, School Year (SY) 2021–2022, accessed July 31, 2023,

[4]Pennsylvania Department of Education, Annual Financial Reports (AFR) Data: Summary-Level, Revenue Data for School Districts 2021–22,

[5]Ed Choice, “The 123’s of School Choice: What the Research Says about Private School Choice Programs in America,” 2023 Edition, 38,

[6]Patrick Wolf et al., “Education Freedom and Student Achievement: Is More School Choice Associated with Higher State-Level Performance on the NAEP?” March 2021, University of Arkansas,

[7]Marc LeBlond and Ed Tarnowski, “Educational Freedom and Choice Hits Escape Velocity,” Ed Choice, July 19, 2023,