By State Sen. Jarrett Coleman (R-16)
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.
State Sen. Jarrett Coleman represents the 16th Senatorial District serving residents in Lehigh and Bucks counties. Coleman serves as chairman of the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee and is a member of the Senate Education Committee.
CONTACT: Leo Knepper