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Gov. Shapiro Ditches Scholarship Plan for Children in Failing Schools

Gov. Josh Shapiro plans to allow the House to pass a $45.5 million budget without the school choice scholarship program that the Senate approved through negotiations with him.

The budget for the 2023-24 fiscal year was due June 30. But with the Democratic-controlled House refusing to go along with the $100 million earmarked for the PASS scholarships (formerly called Lifeline) for children in failing public schools, Shapiro is now playing ball with the House and leaving the senators to fume.

Previously, Shapiro campaigned on the promise of scholarships for students in failing public schools but teachers’ unions and many of his fellow Democrats opposed the plan. A Commonwealth Foundation poll found 77 percent of Pennsylvanians agreed that the state “has arbitrary school district boundaries that traditionally force underprivileged students into underperforming schools. All kids should have access to the best public schools, regardless of location.”

Shapiro released a statement Wednesday afternoon, saying in part, “Knowing that the two chambers will not reach consensus at this time to enact PASS, and unwilling to hold up our entire budget process over this issue, I will line-item veto the total $100 million appropriation, and it will not be part of this budget bill.

“While I am disappointed the two parties could not come together, (House) Leader (Matthew) Bradford has given me his word — and he has written a letter outlining directly to (Senate) Leader (Joe) Pittman — that he will carefully examine and consider additional education options including PASS, Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC), and Education Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) as we work to address our public education needs in light of the Commonwealth Court’s recent education ruling,” Shapiro said.

The last three budget cycles have seen major increases in education funding, including $567 million for basic education; $100 million level up; $100 K-12 mental health; $125 million school safety/facilities; $50 million special education; $100 Million Lifeline/PASS Scholarships; and free lunches.

Advocates for school choice unloaded on Shapiro over his reversal.

“Governor Josh Shapiro said he supported private school choice and even put it in his education platform before the election. He just sent out a statement indicating he will line-item veto the school choice program in the budget,” said Corey DeAngelis, executive director of the Educational Freedom Institute.

“He played the parents of Pennsylvania.”

House Republican Appropriations Chairman Seth Grove (R-York) said his committee is counting the days, hours, minutes, and seconds Pennsylvania has no budget.

“I think it’s important for Pennsylvanians to know the length of time House Democrats have held the budget hostage over Lifeline Scholarships,” Grove said. “We’re talking about 0.2 percent of the budget, just $100 million to help kids in failing schools. This is what House Democrats have chosen to grind the entire process to a halt over.”

Sen. Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia/Delaware) said he is “very disappointed.”

“Children who are in these schools need them to prepare them for life, whether that’s public school, charter schools or parochial schools. And we need to do everything we can do to help them.”

Commonwealth Partners President and CEO Matt Brouillette released the following statement this afternoon after Gov. Josh Shapiro said he would veto PASS Scholarships (formerly Lifeline Scholarships).

“Today, Gov. Josh Shapiro not only reneged on his word to the people of Pennsylvania. But worse, at the first sign of opposition he gave up the fight to rescue kids trapped in failing schools.

“He claims he wins big fights, but in the first big fight of his administration—with kids’ futures on the line—he left the court without even taking one shot. Today, Gov. Shapiro shows who really runs this state, and it’s not him.”

Pennsylvania GOP Chairman Lawrence Tabas said, “By vetoing the Lifeline Scholarship Program, not only is Josh Shapiro crushing hope of a better education and a better life for disadvantaged children, but he is shamelessly catering to the teachers unions, which benefit from trapping these children in bad schools. There is no acceptable reason to deny any child, of any color, background, or Zip code the potential that comes with access to a better education.”

Charlie Gerow, a Republican political consultant with Quantum Communications, said about Shapiro’s bypassing the Senate, “Shapiro plays political games. Big shocker. Sadly, this one is at the expense of our kids.”

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Valley Forge MOAA Awards ROTC and JROTC Liberty Bell Scholarships Plus Awards

From a press release

The Valley Forge Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America serving Chester and surrounding counties awarded Liberty Bell Scholarships and special awards on Saturday at the Desmond Hotel in Chesterbrook. The national MOAA organization is comprised of over 350,000 officers of the uniformed services presently with a status of active, retired, or former.

“Each December we honor those exceptional individuals entering the services and those who excel at continuing to serve,” commented Chapter President Brendan “Murph” Murphy. He also noted the beginning of a corporate sponsorship program for the scholarships with a $2,000 annual donation from Exton-based The InTech Group.

Cadet Joseph Fassano, a Drexel University student and member of Saint Joseph University Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC), was awarded the Chapter’s Liberty Bell Scholarship. He is an accounting major and a member of the Pennoni Honors College offering more challenging courses within their major.  His role in the Air Force ROTC is Cadet Operations Group Commander.

The runner-up for the award was Cadet Jacob Fisher of Widener University ROTC Dauntless Battalion. He serves as Battalion Commander. He is also being recognized by the Department of the Army as a Distinguished Military Graduate.

The 2022 Liberty Bell Special Achievement was presented to Valley Forge Military College Cadet Dilia Reyes-Hill. She was selected to attend the UPENN Environmental Conference and the West Point Ethics Commission. She is a Phi Beta Kappa and will continue her studies in engineering at the University of Texas at Arlington.

The 2022 Junior ROTC award was presented to Reading High School’s Marine Corps  Cadet Nathalie Villarreal, Class Commander of the 400-member unit. She additionally serves on the Student Council, the Key Club, and Cross-Country Club. The runner-up is Cadet Brandon Shilling of the Coatesville Area High School Air Force JROTC.  He is a member of the National Honor Society, the Student Council, Civil Air Patrol, and is a volunteer firefighter.

The Eagle award for Outstanding Officer of the Year was presented to Ernie Holling, Membership Chair, and 3rd Vice President.

The following ROTC units are invited to apply for Liberty Bell Scholarships: St, Josephs Air Force ROTC, University of Pennsylvania Navy ROTC, Valley Forge Military Academy & College ROTC, Villanova University Navy ROTC, and Widener University Army ROTC.

The Junior ROTC schools include Boyertown High School Navy JROTC, Coatesville Area Senior High School Air Force JROTC, Owen J. Roberts High School Navy JROTC, Phoenixville Hight School Air Force JROTC, and Reading High School Marine Corps JROTC.

Build Back Better Would Block Pell Grant Funding for Career College Students

A spending proposal in President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan would deny funding for students who choose to attend private-sector career colleges, rather than public community colleges. It’s a burden that would disproportionately fall on veterans, older students, and people of color.

“We think it’s unfair and it’s unjustified,” said Dr. Jason Altmire, President and CEO of Arlington, Virginia-based Career Education Colleges and Universities (CECU). “This has not been done before in the Pell Grant program.”

For decades, low-income students have relied on Pell Grants to access higher education. Biden’s proposal would increase the maximum Pell Grant by $550 (to $7,045), which would fully cover the average cost of in-state tuition and fees at public community colleges in 48 states for students receiving the maximum award, according to the center-left group Third Way.

But while current funding levels would continue for the 900,000 Pell recipients attending career colleges, the White House’s plan would exclude them from the increased BBB funding. That would be a troubling break from traditional education grant funding, which has always followed the student, critics say.

It would also hit West Virginia and Arizona hardest. Arizona would suffer the highest per capita funding loss in the country under this Pell Grant policy, with West Virginia at number two.



“We are working very hard with both Republicans and Democrats to carry that message that this is unfair, it’s unprecedented and we support what’s best for our students which is equality in the Pell Grant program,” Altmire said.

Career colleges, which place a greater focus on job skills and workforce qualification than traditional colleges, tend to be more popular with non-traditional students, such as older students and military veterans. Career college students are also disproportionately people of color.

“There’s a lot of reasons why people might choose that type of setting,” said Altmire, a Democrat who represented Pennsylvania’s 4th Congressional District from 2007 to 2013. “Reasons include more flexible hours, or they just like the campus or the program. Some prefer the classes because they’re more intense and they’ll finish more quickly and get back in the workforce.”

During the Obama administration, the Department of Education also tried to restrict federal funding for career college students. Some in the education community believe it’s because progressive elements in the Democratic Party are ideologically opposed to the for-profit model. They support policies like a proposal backed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)  to spend $109 billion on free community college for everyone.

That proposal was stripped from the version of the Build Back Better bill passed by the House in November.

One outspoken career college opponent is Robert Shireman, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a liberal think tank, and a former member of the Obama Department of Education.

“For-profits have over many decades been associated with scandals and students being ripped off,” Shireman told The Washington Post. “Every time the government tries to institute controls, the for-profit institutions claim they are being targeted. They fight it or undermine it by adding loopholes.”

Shireman left his job in the Obama Department of Education “under an ethical cloud,” according to a government watchdog organization, after leading the administration’s attacks on career colleges.

In fact, data show career colleges have a median completion rate that is twice as high as public career colleges.

“We produce half the truck drivers in the country,” says Altmire. “So, if you want to talk about the supply chain and the issue associated with the shortage of truck drivers, I don’t know how they think they’re going to solve that problem by disincentivizing people from going to those types of schools.”

The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) also objects to restricting these grants.

“While a $550 increase to the maximum Pell Grant is a welcome upfront investment toward making college more affordable for low-income students, we are concerned to see these funds parceled out by institutional sector, which will add new complexity to a financial aid system on the verge of much-needed simplification,” NASFAA President Justin Draeger said in a recent interview.

“The best place to address concerns about institutional quality at some proprietary institutions should be in the institutional eligibility and accountability provisions in the Higher Education Act, not by making programmatic changes that add complexities to students.”

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