It doesn’t look like the PA budget is going to make the deadline – and the crux is Lifeline Scholarships

June 30 – Today is the day to have an approved budget in the state of Pennsylvania and things aren’t looking all that promising. 

The PA House of Representatives have been called into action today. Will the budget be decided? 

PA Representative Jesse Topper said, “My instinct is to say no right now. I don’t know how it comes together today, unfortunately, but you know, miracles can still happen.”

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM pointed out, “I wanted to ask you, much in the news ballyhooed, Josh Shapiro supporting the tuition voucher program. However, he has put some amazing caveats on there as far as I’m concerned. I guess the stand-alone bill was passed with the help of Anthony Williams, Democrat in the Senate, but obviously they’re saying no, we’re not going to do it. He won’t whip up to get a couple votes in the House to get this passed. So, wow. How committed to it is he really? No, it has to be part of a comprehensive part of the budget. Then he says as long as it’s part of the full budget and that delivers historic investments in public education, key priorities like mental health. I hope you guys are realizing a lot of the mental health stuff that they’re offering to screen kids school-wide, that’s not helpful. I think they’re actually going the wrong way with mental health and kids. They’re making them worse. Please be careful of that.”

The issue is the Lifeline Scholarship Program that is looking to give tuition assistance to students in the bottom 15 percent of the lowest achieving schools in PA. The scholarship could be used for the student to attend private schools. 

Because the Republicans and the Governor are supporting the Lifeline Scholarship Program, the Democrats are trying to get a lot of other programs in the budget as a compromise. 

The PA Senate passed the Lifeline Scholarship bill last night. The House will look at it today. 

Topper said, “This is a hugely important bill and I want to stress to everybody what this could do for kids who are in the bottom 15 percent of schools that are failing throughout Pennsylvania, what it can do for especially young people of color who are in trapped schools, whose mothers are in tears when their kids can’t get picked for a lottery program to get into a charter school. If anybody did not watch Senator Tony Williams’ speech last night on the Senate floor, I encourage you to do so. It’s one of the more powerful speeches that you’ll see an elected official make. That being said, I don’t see a path forward in the House if every Democrat is sized up to vote against it. I hope that we’re not being put into a situation where everything is being placed on Lifeline scholarships, and then it doesn’t happen and then the rest of the budget just sails through with a lot of stuff in it that with mental health is not helpful. But I can’t tell you that because in the House, we’ve not seen those budget numbers yet. That’s why I don’t see it coming through here in 24 hours. So many things are moving that are not good for school choice, but that bill certainly is. So unless we can clear some of the other stuff off and unless we can make sure that the budget is actually something that’s sustainable, and somehow we find a path for these scholarships to stay in, I think it’s going to be very difficult to get Republican support on this budget.”

PA Representative Rob Kauffman said, “It’s very unlikely that we will get to a landing point. We haven’t even seen the numbers yet. So that has to clear the Senate and then we have to get over to the House, but it seems like it’s all hinging on the Lifeline scholarships and that’s truly the hang up. The House Democrats will literally not budge on it. They will lay down in the middle of the road for their union allies. That’s what this is all about. Don’t be mistaken. This is all about their union allies. That’s the stalemate and everything is being held up on that issue.”

Jansen noted, “Governor Shapiro was clear. He wants it for unbelievably more spending, which is what the unions want. And with all that historic spending from Governor Wolf, the numbers in Philadelphia schools went down. He also wants mental health, which scares me to death because this is the DEI mental health issue and this is only making kids weaker. It’s turning them into permanent victims. So great. We’re going to put more money into that crew and then also urgent environmental repairs for all the school buildings because that’s going to be the priority, not having kids actually be able to read but maybe their air will be 2% better or, somehow the greenhouse gasses are going to be affected, which is a big lie. 

Kauffman said, “Senator Anthony Williams, he is, I would say, an intellectually honest, consistent, black Democrat from Philly. He has been on board with school choice for over 20 years, I believe. He has lasted in the city of Philadelphia. He’s a champion for it and we don’t we don’t really have that in the House. The delegation from Philadelphia, the black caucus, they generally fall in line or if they would consider voting for school choice, they just keep their mouth shut. It’s really discouraging because this program is for the failing schools in the urban areas. So they’re going to get this program which would help their students and then they’re getting the more spending, all the mental health stuff, that’s all in the deal from what I understand, that’s part of their deal and they still don’t want it. It’s fascinating to see the lengths they will go to protect the union territory.”

On average, PA spends close to $20,000 per student in the state each year in education.