The Commonwealth Foundation, Pennsylvania’s free-market think tank, launched a six-figure advertising campaign this week, using billboards to promote Lifeline Scholarships.

The nonprofit is promoting Lifeline Scholarships, which help children in failing public schools access better schools. Although Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) ran on a promise to support those scholarships, he used his line-item veto to remove them from last year’s budget. Commonwealth hopes to build public awareness and support so that the Lifeline Scholarships program will be included in the state budget this year.

The Democratic majority in the state House and state teachers’ union opposed the program. A spokesperson for Shapiro did not respond to requests for comment.

The first three digital billboards will run for the next 12 weeks at major locations along I-76, I-676, and the Schuylkill Expressway in Philadelphia. Multiple other billboards have slated launches in the Pittsburgh, Wilkes Barre/Scranton, and Harrisburg areas.

Commonwealth will be following the billboards with radio spots and ads in other media, as well, said Christian Stellakis, a spokesman.

The ads urge parents to visit to explore the potential of the program’s proposed Educational Opportunity Accounts (EOAs) for their kids.

“Every child deserves access to an excellent education,” said Erik Telford, the senior vice president of public affairs at the Commonwealth Foundation. “Lifeline Scholarships empower families to do just that by allowing education funds to follow the student. Parents get to choose the schools that best meet their kids’ needs.”

Lifeline Scholarships, proposed by the state legislature last year, would establish EOAs for students trapped in schools ranked in the bottom 15 percent of the state’s educational institutions. In these failing schools, fewer than 10 percent of students test proficient in math, and just 25 percent reach proficiency in English.

“Too many kids are currently trapped in failing schools. Lifeline Scholarships would provide parents $10,000 to send their child to a better and safer school,” Telford said. “We want to make families aware of the transformational impact of Lifeline Scholarships so that when they become available, parents can take advantage of the new opportunity to secure their children’s future.”

Funded separately from existing education formulas, Lifeline Scholarships would not impact public school budgets. Though Shapiro vetoed the legislation in August 2023, the latest polling reveals a strong majority of Pennsylvania voters (61 percent) believe the governor should enact Lifeline Scholarships.

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