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The Pennsylvania Policy Center stands in opposition to Senate Bill 1280, which would force Pennsylvania taxpayers to give billions in handouts to private and religious institutions with virtually no accountability.

After failing to enact a state budget for FY 2024–25 by the deadline of July 1, Pennsylvania Senate Republicans sent a clear message today that they continue to prioritize giving handouts to the wealthy and diverting public funds to private and religious schools over fully and fairly funding our public schools.

On Wednesday, July 3, the Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to consider SB 1280, a new voucher tax credit bill that would cost taxpayers initially about $2.3 billion next year and more in future years.

We oppose SB 1280 because

  • it diverts $2.3 billion in desperately needed funding for our public schools to an ill-conceived voucher program that most Pennsylvanians oppose.
  • it is too small to help low- and moderate-income students attend a private school and would disproportionately benefit relatively well-off families who already have children enrolled in private academies. (Nationally, twice as many parents with incomes over $75,000 send their kids to private school than parents with incomes below $75,000.)
  • it provides absolutely no accountability for the funds spent, giving taxpayers no assurance that the schools receiving these funds provide an adequate education.
  • it allows private schools receiving these funds to continue to discriminate on the basis of race, gender, and sexual orientation, religious and political beliefs of parents, and whether a student is pregnant or has a child, as many private schools in the state already do.
  • it is unfair to Pennsylvanians based on where they reside, as the benefits of this program would largely go to parents and students in areas of the state where there are many private schools, leaving rural families with few options to utilize the vouchers.

Senate Bill 1280 would cost $2.3 billion. It comes just weeks after the PA Senate passed a tax cut with a $2.7 billion price tag for fiscal year 2024–25 that mainly benefits the wealthiest Pennsylvanians.

If SB 1280 is passed, Senate Republicans will have demonstrated that the state has sufficient funds to meet our moral and constitutional responsibility to adequately and equitably fund our schools.

And yet, the Senate still has no plan do that.

Neither the voters nor the courts of Pennsylvania will approve of this failure in priorities.