Private School Voucher Program Stalls Pa. Budget

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (ErieNewsNow) – Pennsylvania will begin the 2023-24 fiscal year without a budget. Any hopes for meeting tonight’s 11:59 deadline faded throughout the week and into Friday as lawmakers sparred over a publicly-funded private school voucher proposal. 

The taxpayer-funded private school voucher programnow called the Pennsylvania Award for Student Success Scholarship Program, will likely remain front and center of budget negotiations for the foreseeable future. 

Thursday night, the Republican-controlled Senate passed the program, which would pay students in lower-performing schools to attend alternative academic options. Most Democrats are very opposed. 

“Because the idea that we have failing schools is absolutely absurd. We have had a failed legislature. We’ve had a failed state government who has chosen to disinvest in these, ‘failing schools,’” said House Education Committee Chairman Peter Schweyer (D-Lehigh). 

Schweyer, and many of his colleagues, like Rep. Patty Kim (D-Dauphin/Cumberland), say even if the $100 million for the program is a separate budget line item, it would still hurt public schools.


“The money all comes from one pot. So you are still taking away from public education. I don’t care if it’s a different line item, but that $100 million should be going to public education,” said Kim. 

Public education advocates rallied again today, asking the House to hold the line against the program. 

“Every dollar for vouchers takes funding away from a public school system,” said Sharon Ward, Senior Policy Advisor for the Education Law Center. “We’re here to reject the Senate’s school voucher program,” she added. 

Opposition from advocates and House Democrats clashes not only with Republicans, but also with Governor Shapiro, who recently reiterated support for the program. 

Friday afternoon, House Minority Leader Bryan Cutler spoke to the press and said a budget impasse was more than likely. 


“I strongly encourage Democratic leaders to come off of their island, work with the governor and Senate, who obviously are working together on issues,” said Cutler. “But the only plan that I’ve seen thus far out of the House Democrats is a path to an impasse,” he added. 

House Democrats said earlier Friday that they’ve been patiently waiting for the Senate to pass a budget. Around 4 p.m. on Friday, the Senate did pass a $45 billion spending plan, which includes the Pennsylvania Award for Student Success Scholarship Program. The inclusion of the program, mixed with steadfast opposition in the House, means more days of negotiating before a final budget is agreed to. 

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