August 31 — State Senator Judy Ward introduced legislation recently that would benefit students in the lowest performing schools in Pennsylvania to have a chance at a better education.
Senate Bill 757 passed the Senate yesterday and would establish the Pennsylvania Award for Student Success (PASS) Program to fund scholarships of up to $15,000 for students in the lowest performing 15 percent of schools in the state. The scholarships would be available for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
The bill will go to the PA House once the Chamber returns to session in September.
Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM pointed out, “It seems like to me, this is a waste of time, people’s money and energy. This bill is going to go to the House, and it probably won’t see the light of day. Then if it does, it goes back for a revision, back to the House and then back to the governor who will just throw it in the wastebasket anyway. I’m getting a little tired of hearing, well, we have to put this out so that we know where the governor stands and I’m sick of it. I’m sick of useless work because we already know where Josh stands. He already lied and didn’t put his campaign promise to work here because he’s got his lips firmly pressed against the fanny of the unions and doesn’t care about kids in poor families in the worst public schools. Why do I need this thing now?”
Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM said, “My speculation is that they want to show that there’s bipartisan support for this and put Josh Shapiro even further in the hot seat in terms of his promises he made during the campaign. I feel like it’s more of a strategic thing, but sometimes that can be important, and certainly the Democrats have used that strategy very effectively. People don’t understand line item veto, but they do understand him putting a direct veto on a piece of legislation that could help minorities in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.”
Attorney Clint Barkdoll noted, “This probably doesn’t even make it to the House floor for a full vote. I mean, that’s the thing. They’re out of session, another four weeks. There’s that special election the week before that the Democrats will pick the seat back up to regain the majority. My guess is this kind of legislation, it won’t even get out of the committee in the House to get it to the floor vote, to get it to Shapiro’s desk. So maybe there’s some strategy behind this. I’m sure it’s political, they can run and say well, I introduced this or I co-sponsored this, but they have to know internally, this is never going to pass.”
PA Representative Rob Kauffman said, “I don’t know all the ins and outs of the conversations between the administration and the Senate leadership. I’m trying to be optimistic and hopeful that the conversations they’ve had over the summer are somehow related in a negotiation tactic. I get what you’re saying.”
Jansen pointed out, “It’s independent of the budget that the line item vetoed, but as Rob said, this is something they thought they had an agreement on. So is this as a result of some further negotiations? Does Josh Shapiro need help and pressure from some Democrats who would support it? Because there is bipartisan support for this.”
Is the PASS Act from the same pool of money as the $100 million voucher program originally in the PA 2024 budget?
Kauffman said, “That PASS Act, plus it has other things in that bill, like the Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program, that’s monies you see flow to Cumberland Valley Christian School, other private entities around the area. So it could be a negotiation tactic, and that’s what I’ve seen in the past and so I don’t want to discount this as just more busy work. I’m hopeful that this is either part of a product of the negotiations or part of the attempt to get something else in there.”
Jansen said, “Think of the strategy here, too, in the sense that there are Democrats who want to support this, whose constituents want them to support it. So it is a little bit of hardball maybe. You’re using strategy to try to threaten some seats that Republicans want. This is a good way to put some pressure on the seats, to help a Republican who might challenge a Democrat in these areas because then that person goes on the record as voting against the things that will benefit the constituents.”
Ryan said, “He’s going to veto it.”
Jansen agreed, “Yes, of course, but you’re not thinking about the fact that this affects the ability of some main teams for their seats. Look at the margins we have in the Senate and the House right now. We need seat pick up. We need House pickup.”
“You think this one issue is going to do it?” Ryan asked.
“Yes,” Jansen contended. “It can work when people are in a district that’s not solidly blue. Or where the constituents very vitally want these things.”
“Apparently they don’t,” Ryan insisted. “They keep putting the idiots back in in Pittsburgh and Philly, year after year.”
Kauffman said, “It can be an issue that could swing decisions in elections and certainly can be, but obviously in Pittsburgh and Philly that’s not been working out well for us.”