inside sources print logo
Get up to date Delaware Valley news in your inbox

OPINION: PASS Scholarships: A Crucial Investment in Pennsylvania’s Future

At the heart of education is a promise: the promise of opportunity, growth, and a brighter future.

Yet, for countless students in Pennsylvania’s consistently lowest-performing schools, this promise remains elusive, trapped behind the barriers of geographic limitations, economic restrictions, or limited access to quality instruction.

The reality in many parts of the state, like Philadelphia, is that students and parents desperately want better educational opportunities for their kids. Parents with students in the bottom 15% performing public schools in Pennsylvania often grapple with challenges that hinder the delivery of quality education. These challenges can include overcrowded classrooms, an increased presence of violence, and a need for more educators.

The House Republican Policy Committee recently convened to hear about school choice from eager parents and educators speaking on behalf of students looking for real change to a broken and outdated education system.

The change they advocated for was the Pennsylvania Award for Student Success (PASS) scholarship program, a bipartisan policy initiative that would serve as a transformative solution granting families the opportunity to select the educational curriculum most suitable for their child’s needs. Access to these scholarship dollars and more educational choices further empowers parents as they take an active role in their child’s education, fostering a sense of ownership and partnership between families and schools.

Introducing competition and encouraging innovation, PASS scholarships will be a catalyst for positive change. Students will have the freedom to leave underperforming schools instead of being trapped in a one-size-fits-all, government-run system. Schools, both private and public, will be competing to attract students by improving curriculum, engaging parents, creating a 21st century learning environment and prioritizing the well-being of their students.

Special interests who oppose the program have argued falsely that PASS scholarships divert resources away from struggling schools, exacerbating their challenges. The truth is that funding for a PASS scholarship program would come from a separate state account while also preserving full funding for traditional K-12 public education.

At one of the Republican Policy Committee hearings, a mother from Philadelphia made a point to mention she is a Democrat and this issue goes beyond party lines. She testified that, if implemented, this program would force schools to “up their game…and hold their schools accountable.” By embracing competition in education, we create a system where schools are driven to excel, breaking the cycle of underperforming institutions, and where the students are the ultimate winners, gaining access to more diverse and innovative learning opportunities.

Pennsylvania has a unique opportunity to lead the way in innovation in education by embracing PASS scholarships as a powerful and life-changing solution for those who need it most.

As the Pennsylvania House of Representatives returns to session and legislators fill the capitol, they have an opportunity to pass a bipartisan school choice initiative that will have a positive generational impact. Democrat Gov. Josh Shapiro promised to support the program during his campaign and now is the time to deliver on that promise for the next generation of Pennsylvania.

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or

Commonwealth Partners Pledge Millions to Support Pro School Choice Candidates

Earlier this summer, Gov. Josh Shapiro vetoed a program designed to help kids in the lowest-performing schools with state funds for tuition so they could attend better ones.

Shapiro had campaigned on school choice and hammered out an agreement with the Republican-majority state Senate for the $100,000 Pennsylvania Award for Student Success (PASS) program. But the Democrat-controlled House opposed it, and Shapiro promised them he would use his line-item veto to strike it from the state budget.

Monday, Commonwealth Partners President and CEO Matt Brouillette announced his organization is now fielding a more than $10 million war chest to support candidates for the Pennsylvania House and Senate in 2024 who back school choice.

“Our supporters applaud the Pennsylvania Senate for making school choice a priority in the state budget,” said Brouillette. “Unfortunately, Pennsylvania House Democrats and many Pennsylvania Senate Democrats have chosen to side with government unions over the interests of students and families. We look forward to electing lawmakers in 2024 who will put students’ interests above special interests. And that work has already begun.”

Brouillette said Shapiro received more than $5.5 million from government unions during the 2021-22 election cycle. Now unions have inked new contracts negotiated behind closed doors with the Shapiro administration. They include large pay raises and are projected to cost taxpayers $3.2 billion over the next four years.

Brouillette also called out House Leader Matthew Bradford (D-Worcester), saying he had blocked the “schoolhouse door for children deserving a better education” and received union support.

“Gov. Shapiro caved to his union campaign donors once by vetoing educational opportunity and then rewarded them with billions of dollars in new taxpayer-funded contracts,” Brouillette said. “We know we’re up against a special interest group that ultimately doesn’t care about kids. That’s why our supporters are investing significant resources to free children from unions’ failing schools.”

DVJournal asked Brouillette whether he was concerned that Shapiro would veto another school choice plan.

“Gov. Shapiro has repeatedly stated his support for school choice. He knows that rescuing kids from failing schools is the right thing to do, but union-owned lawmakers who control the House have thwarted him so far. We plan to remove that barrier so Shapiro will have no roadblock to keeping his word,” he said.

Asked about possible court challenges to voucher programs, Brouillette said, “School choice programs have been challenged many times. And time and again, courts all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court have upheld them. Those who challenge them are on the wrong side of history and the wrong side of kids.”

On the question of whether having former President Donald Trump on the top of the ticket would hurt GOP efforts to pass legislation on state issues like school choice, Brouillette noted the election is more than a year away.

“I’ve said before that to win elections; the GOP needs to move beyond Trump and Trump-endorsed candidates. A lot can happen between now, and the presidential primaries, and my hope is that Republicans focus on nominating a candidate who not only fights for freedom but can also win in November.”

Gina Pope, a spokeswoman for Commonwealth Partners, said the sources of the funds will be revealed when it files the required campaign finance forms. Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs is a free-market advocacy organization.

Brouillette said parents and students can’t afford to wait for a change of heart in Harrisburg. “As our elected officials have not had a change of heart, it’s clear Pennsylvanians need a change in leadership. Our kids need an educational lifeline now. They can’t wait. If you stand with children, we will stand with you. But if you keep blocking the schoolhouse door, know that we plan to do everything we can to help children escape the unions’ worst schools in Pennsylvania.”

Neither Bradford nor Shapiro responded to requests for comment.

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or

Some Hope Legislature, Governor May Yet Approve School Choice Program

Gov. Josh Shapiro’s flip-flop on a school voucher program to help children in the bottom 15 percent of Pennsylvania’s public schools stalled the state budget, disappointing many parents looking forward to sending their kids to better schools.

Fifteen U.S. states, plus Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, have active school voucher programs. School choice programs, including charter schools or tax credit scholarships, are available in 18 other states.

Pennsylvania might have become the 16th state with a school voucher program this summer. However, in early July, Shapiro announced he would line-item veto the $100 million Pennsylvania Award for Student Success (PASS) school voucher program from the budget. The governor cited the impasse between the House and Senate for his decision. But critics say he caved to teachers union demands, perhaps with an eye on his political future.

School voucher advocates say Shapiro should have honored his campaign promise and approved the PASS program.

“I think he has the votes to support it in the House…if he would have actually pushed for it,” said Nate Benefield, senior vice president at the Commonwealth Foundation. “He kind of wanted to make it easy, but in reality, made it difficult. I think it was a miscalculation on his part.”

Benefield said Shapiro needs to be “a strong leader” on the school voucher issue like he was during the 2022 campaign.

“He’s been consistent on supporting educational choice,” Benefield acknowledged. “But there is a difference…as governor saying “‘Hey, this is something I support’…and getting it done.”

Shapiro, for his part, said he still wants school vouchers to become a reality for Pennsylvania parents and students.

“I consider it to be unfinished business, something the House and Senate need to keep working on,” the Democrat told an audience in Penn Hills last week. “I think it’s important that we fully fund our schools and we give children who are struggling in difficult situations more opportunity to learn.”

The veto did not sit well with some House Republicans.

“Why is the governor breaking his promise to the children and people of Pennsylvania? Because he buckled to a small group of radical Democrat representatives who prioritized special interests and their own jobs over what’s right for our kids.” wrote Rep. Martina White (R-Philadelphia) in DVJournal.

“We know one year of learning loss can translate into thousands of dollars in lost lifetime earnings,” White said about the massive disruptions in education during the pandemic. “We know two out of three Pennsylvanians support school choice for students in the worst performing schools. We know we need education options for parents and students now.”

Observers say school vouchers is an issue that isn’t going away.

“What side blinks first?” said Benefield. “Senate Republicans have basically said this is part of the deal. If the Democrats want funding for billion dollars in programs that don’t have authorization language, they need to go along with this. House Democrats have yet to blink on that.”

“Senate Republicans took Gov. Shapiro at his word when he promised to support Lifeline Scholarships (the first name for PASS) in the budget,” said Commonwealth Partners president and CEO Matt Brouillette. “Kids trapped in failing schools hope they can count on him this time to deliver on his promise to rescue them.”

Others portray the school voucher issue as more of a “when,” not if scenario.

“Pennsylvania is one of several states where school choice has passed or expanded with bipartisan support and even divided government,” said Tommy Schultz, CEO American Federation for Children, who sees school vouchers as an issue of parents taking control of their child’s education. “Empowering families should not be a partisan issue; in fact, a super-majority of every political party and demographic – including 66 percent of Democrats in a recent poll – support it. Democratic party leaders who have chosen to represent the unions instead of their constituents on this issue do so at their own political peril.”

“The fact is that families want more agency over their K-12 experience, and the demand for options is only growing stronger,” said Aaron Garth Smith, director of education reform for the Reason Foundation. Smith commented that Shapiro knows parents support school choice. “His tone has certainly been more productive than many other Democrats across the country, so hopefully, they can strike a deal that gives parents what they want.

“Education choice isn’t about public schools vs. private schools—it’s letting parents decide what’s best for their kids. Public schools work great for many kids, but others need something different,” said Smith.

Smith sees the current push towards school choice as something that completely changes how education is viewed in the U.S.

“The pandemic was the tipping point that led to the school choice moment. What we’re witnessing is fundamentally changing public education for the better at a breathtaking pace. Decades from now, I think we’ll look back and say that school choice was the most important issue coming out of the pandemic. It’s changing how we think about education,” said Smith.

The legislature will return in mid-September.

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or

COLEMAN: Shapiro Sold Out Students

Actions speak louder than words in politics and almost everything else in life. Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro’s recent actions tell the story of a politician who sold out parents and students to appease special interests.

Too many students in Pennsylvania are trapped in underperforming schools. Regardless of how hard these students try or how much their parents care, these children are unlikely to receive the quality education they deserve simply because they are trapped in the school district their address dictates, the address their parents can afford.


Many of these students live in low-income households. Their parents cannot afford to send them to a different school. These children lack access to the educational opportunities that are their birthright as residents of Pennsylvania.

My colleagues in the state Senate and I heard their stories, and we acted. We included $100 million in this year’s state budget to create a new program specifically designed to help these children. This $100 million is on top of the historic increase in education funding. Yes, that is right, the Senate budget increased public school funding by historic levels, the highest levels of public school funding in the state’s history. Shapiro acknowledged this fact in his press conference on the budget passed by the Senate. So saying the Senate is not doing enough to fund public education is simply not true, a point the governor acknowledged.

The Pennsylvania Award for Student Success (PASS) program money is new and not taken from any existing state program or service. This funding would be in addition to the record levels of state support for education already included in this year’s budget. To reiterate, the budget passed by the Senate spends more money on public education than any budget in Pennsylvania state history. Vetoing the PASS program provides ZERO additional dollars for public schools and only penalizes the students who can least afford it.

The new PASS program would provide scholarships of up to $15,000 to students in low-income households living in underperforming school districts.

Low-income households would be defined as those earning 250% or less of the federal poverty threshold, which would be $75,000 for a family of four. Underperforming school districts would include the lowest 15% of school districts based on performance on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests.

During his campaign for governor last year, Shapiro supported these scholarships, saying, “I’m for making sure we give parents the ability [to] put their kids in the best situation for them to be able to succeed.”

The governor’s actions, unfortunately, undermine his words. When the Senate approved, and the House agreed to a state budget bill including the $100 million for these new scholarships, Shapiro promised to eliminate the funding from the final budget he plans to sign into law.

The governor promised to kill the program after he received pressure from powerful teachers’ unions and other liberal special interest groups.

The famous American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Your actions speak so loud, I cannot hear what you are saying.” Pennsylvanians find themselves being deafened by Shapiro’s callous disregard for the educational opportunities many families are desperate for to give their children a chance for a brighter future.

Pennsylvania parents and students have heard Shapiro, but more importantly, they are seeing his actions. The governor’s veto destroys this program single-handedly, and slams closed the door of educational opportunity for these low-income students. PASS funds students, not failing systems.

First, their schools failed them. Now their governor is failing them.

Pennsylvania parents and students deserve a governor whose actions are as admirable as his words.




SLADE-BOWERS: School Choice is a Political Football for PA Politicians; For Me, It was a Lifesaver.

In Pennsylvania, quality education is a privilege for some and a failed campaign promise for others.

While many were busy preparing for the July 4th festivities, Democratic Governor Josh Shapiro pledged to veto a budget item that would have offered school choice scholarships to low-income students attending the worst 15 percent of public schools in Pennsylvania – after pledging his support during his 2022 campaign.

When I heard the news, I was deeply disappointed, not just as a voter or constituent but also as a former student whose life was changed forever because of school choice programs in Pennsylvania.

Growing up, I benefited from the PA Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program, which made it possible for my family to afford private school. My mother knew exactly what I needed to succeed in my education, and recognized how ill-prepared our local public school was to meet my specific needs. My brother and I were born with a rare eye condition that stunted our academic achievement and made it difficult to perform on the same level as our classmates. Knowing that the system we were in would leave us behind, our mother sacrificed to ensure that we would have the same chance at a successful life as those more fortunate.

During my sophomore year of high school, my mother was devastated to tell me that I would need to leave my private school for financial reasons. I thought the life I had envisioned for myself was gone – until I received a school choice scholarship. This program allowed me to continue receiving an education that fit my needs, and now I advocate for other families to have the same opportunity.

Unfortunately, that opportunity is still limited in my home state, and too many students in Pennsylvania remain on waiting lists or unable to afford the chance that changed my life.

The Pennsylvania Award for Student Success [PASS] program would have created more scholarships for students on a first-come, first-served basis. Qualifying families would have to live in underperforming school districts and be subject to an income cap of 250 percent of federal poverty guidelines. Scholarship awards would only be permitted for educational expenses such as tuition, tutoring, and school supplies.

When running for Governor, and again recently, Shapiro touted his support for this program, correctly explaining that it would benefit the Commonwealth’s neediest students. But facing backlash from political allies, primarily teachers’ unions who feared losing their monopoly over the state’s children, Shapiro promised to kill the $100 million voucher program with a line-item veto, saying it was necessary to pass the state’s $45.5 billion budget.

Shapiro caved to the teachers’ unions and Democratic party leadership who asked him to put party politics over the needs of students like me.

School choice is enormously popular among voters, both around the country and in Pennsylvania. New polling from Real Clear Opinion Research shows that 71 percent of registered voters support school choice. Support is also strong among Governor Shapiro’s Democratic constituents, with 66 percent of Democrats in support, as well as 80 percent of Republicans and 69 percent of Independents saying they support education freedom.

Gov. Shapiro still has the opportunity to keep his promises and put students first. He could sign the budget without vetoing the program, or he could come back next year and champion an even more robust scholarships program. Time will tell, but the governor should recognize that school choice is only growing in popularity, and Pennsylvanians are watching.

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or

ROSICA: Who is Shapiro Really Fighting For?

“Throughout his career, Josh has taken on the status quo, brought people together, and fought to keep Pennsylvanians from getting screwed — and that’s exactly what he’ll do as Governor.”

According to his website, Josh Shapiro claims he fought to prevent Pennsylvanians from getting screwed. Whatever you think of his choice of words, let’s think about what that means. How many people suffered during the lockdowns and school closures? How many children failed school, dropped out, and/or committed suicide? How many businesses were forced to close and never reopen due to the current Administration’s failed policies? The numbers are staggering. Shapiro’s definition of “getting screwed” is as off base as his major flip on Gov. Tom Wolf’s response to COVID-19.

As attorney general, Shapiro did not oppose Wolf’s mandates, lockdowns, or closures; and he never spoke out against these policies. That is, until recently. Now, his current story is that the administration in which he played a vital role did not need to enact the mandates and closures.

As attorney general, why did he not push back on the governor rather than actively defending him? As an attorney, he could — and should — have provided guidance and recommendations to the Governor.  Either Shapiro’s advice was not heeded, in which case, he should state that publicly, or Shapiro did not advise the Governor correctly.  Shapiro’s lack of leadership and incompetence led to a Constitutional amendment limiting the power of the Governor and a State Supreme Court decision overturning Wolf’s school mask mandate as unconstitutional. How did Shapiro defend his constituents from this government overreach? Shapiro failed in both preventing Pennsylvanians from getting screwed, and he also failed to advise the Governor and the rest of the administration correctly.

Today, Shapiro states that he does not support mandates, lockdowns, or closures.  He also states that he supports school choice and supports public education, an interesting dichotomy. Shapiro has been supported by the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) for almost a decade. In this election cycle, he has received $525,000 from PSEA (his tenth highest overall donation thus far) and $250,000 from the National Education Association.

He is endorsed by both groups who are very much anti-school choice. In a  press release in April prior to Shapiro stating his new position, the PSEA said of House Bill 2169 that “it’s hard to imagine a worse voucher plan than this one.” This is the same legislation that Shapiro has vowed to support on his website: “Josh favors adding choices for parents and educational opportunity for students and funding lifeline scholarships like those approved in other states and introduced in Pennsylvania.”

Supported and endorsed by groups who vehemently oppose school choice, will he hold to his current, newfound position?  Why not?  His own children attend an expensive private school — the same one that he attended as a student — costing between $30 and $37k annually.

Shapiro states that he supports both public education and school choice and that he will not take money from public schools to support choice. What does that plan look like? And if he really supports public schools, why do his own children attend an expensive private school? Once again, Shapiro’s decisions are inconsistent with his words.

On election day, can we trust that the recent Shapiro positions will be the ones he sticks with, or will his allegiance to the teachers’ unions that openly endorse and financially support him win out?

Given that Shapiro has been financially supported by the PSEA since at least 2016 in his run for attorney general, it stands to reason that he will back the union and their positions most of the time. That is what Wolf did when he mandated masks for all K-12 students in the Fall of 2021 — because that is what the PSEA wanted and demanded of him.

Will Shapiro really be any different?

With election day only weeks away, it is incredibly convenient and highly suspect for Shapiro’s platform to take an almost 180-degree turn. Now his position is that the state needed to educate and empower people to make the best decisions for themselves. Where was that attitude over two years ago when Wolf closed schools and businesses and eventually mandated masks for all students? Now he supports school choice and the Lifeline Scholarship legislation when one of his largest and politically active donors is vehemently against it.

Can we trust Shapiro to live up to his newly articulated campaign promises or will he be responsible for ensuring that Pennsylvanians are screwed over for another four years?

This article first appeared in Broad + Liberty.

Ciresi, Neafcy Face Off Again in House 146 District

When they faced off two years ago in House District 146, incumbent state Rep. Joe Ciresi (D-Royersford) easily bested his GOP opponent, Thomas Neafcy by about 5,000 votes.

But the politics of 2022 are very different. President Joe Biden is polling in the low 30s, gas prices are soaring, and polls show voters are ready for a change. Enough change to flip this district? That is what Neafcy is hoping.

Thomas Neafcy

Ciresi, who is seeking a third term, is quick to note he is willing to buck trends in his own party.

“I know some of my colleagues get upset with me because I’m not progressive enough at times. I am progressive, but I look at a different way to get there. I don’t believe that tomorrow everything should be renewable. I believe it all needs to be renewable, but you need to buy into that.”

One thing both candidates agree on is the economy is the most pressing issue.

Republican Neafcy, a former Limerick Township supervisor, blames Biden’s policies for a historic surge in inflation that has raised the price of gas, food and rent.

That is squeezing Pennsylvanians, especially families and retirees on fixed incomes, said Neafcy, who secured the GOP nod through a write-in campaign in the May primary.

“We’re heading into a recession. People on fixed incomes or retired are scared to death,” said Neafcy, who counts himself among those who are worried after retiring following more than 30 years working for PECO. “We’re in terrible shape under President Biden. Inflation’s out of control. Gas prices are out of control. Jobs aren’t what they should be. We’re in trouble and it’s going to hurt for a while.”

Ciresi pointed to the state’s $42.8 billion spending plan that allocated more than half a billion dollars in additional spending for K-12 education as providing some relief for taxpayers.

Nearly $250 billion is going to help the state’s 100 poorest districts, the Associated Press reported, along with  $140 million in direct property tax relief for residents through a one-time bonus rebate program proposed by Gov. Tom Wolf (D).

“We all know the economy is a major issue,” Ciresi said. “And it continues to be an issue. This budget that just came out helped a lot of people.”

After giving up his supervisor seat last year following decades in public service, Neafcy said was drawn into the race after the Montgomery County GOP failed to put up a candidate in the primary. He said he felt a responsibility to step up after serving virtually every level of local government in Limerick Township.

“I have one philosophy, and I’ve always kept it. I will give you an honest answer,” Neafcy said. “You may not like it, but I’ll tell you the truth. You can take it to the bank. I don’t play that game. I believe in honesty and integrity.”

Ciresi, a former Spring-Ford School Board member, comes from a plain-speaking Italian family whose influence is obvious in how he carries himself.

He littered his interview with DVJournal with colorful language and jokingly told a childhood story of how his mother brusquely laid into an irritated motorist who honked at them while they were broken down at a light.

He hopes his straight-talking ways and commitment to doing the “right d**n thing” no matter what appeals to voters who are disillusioned with Democrats because of Biden’s unpopularity.

Neafcy attacked his opponent’s record on education, claiming he is a “special-interest” candidate aligned with his biggest donors, including the teachers unions.

Neafcy supports school choice and was critical of legislation that Ciresi sponsored aimed at changing charter school laws and the way schools are funded.

“He’s trying to defund charter schools,” Neafcy said. “He’s not working for the kids. He’s working for the teachers’ unions.”

Ciresi, who serves on the House Education Committee, has been critical of the state’s funding formula, particularly an antiquated “hold harmless” policy, around since 1992 to ensure school districts aren’t funded less than they were in previous years. He believes it created steep imbalances among schools with shrinking or increasing student enrollment.

“It was a good idea at one point. It doesn’t work,” Ciresi said. Growing school districts raised property taxes to offset the state’s underfunding. This year’s budget includes a $225 million increase for Level Up aimed at addressing the iniquities, he said.


Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter @DVJournal or

MOONEY: How Tax Credit Scholarships Empower Those Most in Need

Of all the school choice bills currently up for consideration in Pennsylvania, state Sen. Mike Regan’s proposed expansion of tax credit scholarships appears to be the one best positioned to become law.

The Republican representing parts of Cumberland and York Counties is the lead sponsor of Senate Bill 527, which would establish an “automatic escalator” each year so the supply of scholarships would keep up with increasing demand. Since the bill was approved by the Senate Education Committee in January, it is eligible for a vote in the full Senate.

That’s why now would be a good time for elected officials to revisit the personal stories of state residents who have previously testified about the benefits of both the Education Improvement Tax Credit Scholarship and the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit, which enable families to cover the costs of private school tuition.

The experiences of Maria Elizabeth Leon, an immigrant from Mexico who is now a resident of Allegheny County, is particularly applicable to the scholarship programs, which are currently limited by arbitrary state-imposed caps. Leon testified before the Senate Education Committee in April 2021 where she made a powerful case for families like her own that sought out private, Christian schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When I testified, I told senators that before finding out about the scholarships I had been selling tamales to save money and was considering opening a Mexican restaurant to help save for my children’s schooling,” Leon said in an interview. “That’s how far I was willing to go since I did not know at the time that the state had a K-12 scholarship program.”

Since the inception of the tax credit scholarships in 2001, hundreds of thousands of low – to middle-income Pennsylvania students have received tuition assistance through the EITC and OSTC programs, according to government figures. Businesses and individuals can donate to more than 250 scholarship organizations statewide receiving a 75 percent credit on their income taxes for a one-year commitment or a 90  credit for a two-year commitment.

A joint poll from EdChoice, a national nonprofit school choice advocacy group, and The Commonwealth Foundation, a free-market think tank based in Harrisburg, found that 71 percent of Pennsylvania voters support both scholarship programs.

“None of what my children have achieved would be possible without the state’s tax credit scholarship program,” Leon said. “But sadly, there are many other students who are in need of scholarships and can’t get them. The program is capped. This is a shame because no kids should be left out.”

But a new report from The Commonwealth Foundation shows many are being left out because of rising demand. For the 2019-20 school year, the report found students submitted 137,000 scholarship applications, which was 34,000 more than the prior school year, and the highest on record. Unfortunately, a record number of K-12 student tax applications were also denied because of the existing caps – 75,651 to be precise. Put simply, 55 percent of K-12 applications were turned away. The problem doesn’t end here. In the 2019-20 school year, individuals and businesses donated a record $190 million for K-12 scholarships. But $116 million of business donations have been waitlisted because of the caps.

Fortunately, Regan’s bill would put an end to the backlog by automatically raising the caps for both programs by 25 percent annually so long as at least 90 percent of the credits were claimed in the prior year.

“Since we know there’s a demand for more scholarship funding, and we know how much the scholarships have already helped, why not expand and help more children have a bright future?” Leon asks. Three of her children received tax-credit scholarships to attend Cornerstone. But she would like to see all Pennsylvania residents who are in need of financial assistance benefit from scholarships for private schools. “My children are succeeding at Cornerstone where they have high hopes for the future.”

But the same may not be true for other students who have no alternative to public schools in absence of any scholarships. Regan drove this point home in a press release where he discussed the potential long-term ramifications of students missing out on scholarships.

“Some of these kids may never get the opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty or an inevitable life of crime and prison because their taxpayer-funded public schools continue to fail to provide them the education and support they need to break the cycle,” Regan said in the release. “Ultimately, this is about lives. Changing and improving the lives of young people.”

An economic analysis of the “untapped potential” of tax credit scholarships found that by expanding both the EITC and OSTC programs Pennsylvania would generate billions of dollars by increasing the lifetime earnings of today’s students while reducing crime.

Regan anticipates that his bill could increase the scholarship programs by $100 million annually, which amounts to less than 1 percent of the $30 billion the state spends on education each year.

“We are talking about personal financial gain for these individuals who then do not need to seek public assistance or wind up in taxpayer-funded prisons,” Regan said in his release. “And the billions of dollars that we will experience in return more than covers the increase in available tax credits.”

Follow us on social media: Twitter: @DV_Journal or