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.”