Student Opportunities for Success Examined by Senate Education Committee

READING – Parents and advocates said they need expanded learning opportunities during a public hearing of the Senate Education Committee today, according to Sen. Dave Argall (R-29), who chairs the committee.

The 2023-24 state budget approved by a bipartisan majority in the Senate contains $100 million to fund the PASS (Pennsylvania Award for Student Success) Program, which would provide low-income students in low-performing schools with scholarships to attend the school of their choice. Governor Shapiro has threatened to line-item veto this funding, after previously voicing support for the program.

Funding the PASS Program will empower parents and families in the education of their children and does not take a single dollar away from public schools. The state budget passed by the Senate also includes a $567 million increase in basic education funding.

“No option should be off the table when it comes to our children’s futures,” said Argall. “My colleague, Senator Anthony Williams (D-8), said it best during his remarks on the Senate floor a few short weeks ago: ‘THEY CANNOT WAIT’. We must ask ourselves the same question many parents consider every day: What can we do right now to give more students an opportunity for success?”

Two parents of students in the Reading School District, LeAnn Thomas and Sara Torres, testified about their dreams for their children to receive a quality education now.

Torres spoke about her wish for her son to become a lawyer, noting that “my son’s classmates, who are wonderful smart children who will run the future of our amazing city of Reading and will grow our great state of Pennsylvania, deserve the best education that our taxpayer dollars can provide.”

Thomas spoke about the welcoming atmosphere her son found at The King’s Academy, the second private school he has attended, mentioning that she feels other families deserve the same chance to find a school that works best for their children.

Michelle Goodman, the Head of School at The King’s Academy, shared stories about families who were searching for opportunities outside of the Reading School District but could not attend The King’s Academy due to financial restraints. She stated, “to persist with an “us vs them” stance while the future leaders of our country pay the price is short-sighted and only continues to perpetuate the problems we face.”

She also noted in her testimony that proficiency scores in reading and math for The King’s Academy students in grades 2-7 were 87% and 85%, respectively.

Dr. Jennifer Murray, the Superintendent for the Reading School District, testified that prior to the covid-19 pandemic, the Reading School District “had shown slow and steady growth on local and state assessments.”

Since 2017, Basic Education Funding for Reading School District has increased by almost 50% to an estimated over $200 million in the 2023-24 state budget, totaling over $1.1 billion over the past seven years.

“Governor Shapiro has previously voiced support for the PASS Program. Even though he has threatened to veto this funding, there’s still time for him to stand up for students,” Argall continued.

VIDEO: Senator Argall’s remarks to begin the public hearing.

VIDEO: Senator Argall’s remarks at the close of the public hearing.


CONTACT: Jim Brugger, 717-787-2637

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