News & Brews July 3, 2023

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Pa. Senate passes a state budget, House says ‘no’

On Friday, the Pa. Senate passed a $45.55 billion spending plan for FY 2023-24. Among other things, the spending plan includes an increase of more than $567 million for basic education. The bill also includes $150 million more for Pa.’s highly popular tax credit scholarship programs. And it includes $100 million to create the Pennsylvania Award for Student Success Initiative (PASS). This initiative would allow children trapped by zip code in the lowest performing schools to access better educational opportunity. The budget differs from the version passed by the House, where Democrat leadership opposes rescuing kids trapped in failing schools. (See next item.) Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward said any budget the House returns without the PASS program will be “null and void.”

Pa. misses budget deadline over 0.2% of budget

House and Senate lawmakers left town for the July 4 holiday without agreeing to a state budget. The sticking point is House Democrats’ objection to $100 million for a new school choice program—out of a more than $45 billion budget. (Yep, you read that right.) Gov. Shapiro’s office had called for lawmakers to “remain in our State Capitol and work to compromise.” As Rep. Seth Grove (York County) noted, “We are without a budget b/c House Democrats are opposed to spending 0.2% of the budget to help kids go to a school of their choice.”

Gov. Shapiro cancels teachers’ union appearance amid budget negotiations

Gov. Shapiro was scheduled to keynote an American Federation of Teachers event on Saturday. Instead, he cancelled his appearance as school choice is at the center of ongoing budget negotiations. On the campaign trail, Shapiro had expressed his support for Lifeline Scholarships (now dubbed “PASS” in the Senate’s state budget—see first item above). Teachers’ unions are vehemently opposed to any such educational choice programs.

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