Senate Approves Ward Plan to Create Scholarships for Students Trapped in Low-performing Schools

HARRISBURG – The state Senate today approved a bill including a proposal introduced by Sen. Judy Ward (R-30) that would enable students from low-income families currently trapped in underperforming schools to access a better education.

Senate Bill 757 would establish the Pennsylvania Award for Student Success (PASS) Program to fund scholarships of up to $15,000 for students from low-income families in the lowest 15% of schools in statewide performance tests. The program would provide scholarships to eligible students in kindergarten through the 12th grade.

“PASS Program scholarships offer low-income students and their parents the hope of a quality education and the opportunities it can offer,” said Ward, who sponsored the Senate version of the proposal. “These parents cannot afford to pull their children out of failing schools and give them better educational opportunities. This program provides a lifeline for these students by enabling them to access an education that otherwise would be out of their reach.”

The program would offer $2,500 scholarships for students in half-day kindergarten; $5,000 for students in kindergarten through 8th grade; $10,000 for students in 9th through 12th grade; and $15,000 for students with special needs.

Scholarships would be available to students living in households with an income below 250% of the federal poverty level, which equates to $75,000 this year for a family of four.

The legislation has the potential to help students in 382 schools across 79 school districts.

“Pennsylvania state government needs to do what is in these students’ best interests rather than the bidding of well-funded special interests,” Ward said. “Continuing to send these students to failing schools is not only a policy failure, but also a moral failure. Gov. Josh Shapiro can make good on his repeated public support for school choice and call on the House to come back to session to approve the PASS program. We cannot wait any longer to give these low-income students trapped in failing schools the education and opportunity they deserve.”

The state budget bill approved by the Senate in June included $100 million in funding for the PASS Program. The state House approved the bill after a commitment from Gov. Josh Shapiro to prevent the funding of the program with a line-item veto. As the House expected, Shapiro bowed to the school teachers’ union representatives and other special interest groups instead of standing with students in need and blocked the money for the PASS Program. This was despite claiming to support the initiative while campaigning last year for governor.

Senate Bill 757 now heads to the state House for consideration.