Republican Candidate Wants To Make School Choice A Reality For Pennsylvania Families

Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano is running on a promise to overhaul Pennsylvania's public education system and shift school funds directly to families for their choice of education.

By Erika Hanson | Published

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School choice is a major concern being boosted by political candidates as more and more families across the nation join the sweeping movement. Joining that front is Senator Doug Mastriano, Pennsylvania’s Republican gubernatorial candidate. In his run for office, he is banking on a massive overhaul of the state’s education, vowing to fund students’ education choices rather than public schools.

If his promise is followed through, and Mastriano becomes the elected governor, it is possible that school choice reform in The Keystone State could join the ranks of Arizona in making unprecedented changes in how education is funded. According to reports from The Associated Press, the state’s public education system is valued at $30 billion. But how would this school choice program work?

Since Mastriano has merely touted the proposal during his election run, there is no concrete school choice plan quite yet. However, the candidate has eluded to how he would enact the change if given the chance. Overall, he would redistribute most of the public school budget to students for their choice of education.

This would allow families the chance to use state funds to pay for a private school or even homeschool. As for how much each student would receive in this school choice plan, Mastriano has touted varying figures. In the past, his valuation has ranged anywhere from $9,000 per student, up to $15,000.

Under current law, Pennsylvania distributes money to public schools based on a per-student enrollment figure, which sits at $19,000 per child. But taking his school choice proposal even farther, Mastriano has vowed to eliminate school property taxes altogether in the state. Many are skeptical of this proposal, however, as taxes account for most of the public school budget, which would be severely cut and therefore make even his school choice program heavily underfunded.

Like other proponents of school choice, Mastriano continues to ramp up the idea as a necessity to take power away from continuously failing and underperforming schools. For the last decades, schools across America have been reporting amasses of academic failures. Mastriano and other advocates believe school choice is the solution to reverse the nation’s education issues. 

But on the other hand, critics argue that school choice will only further the divide in academic achievement by leaving those stuck in the public school system with far-worse qualities of education. What’s more, there is little research on how effective sweeping changes to funding will be, as many states have just begun to make the massive shift. Furthermore, extensive research in the past advocating for this leaves out an important factor with these new proposals: the massive public school funding cuts necessary to make the programs work.

school choice

Even if Mastriano is elected and able to work with legislation to pass sweeping school choice policies, there may be hurdles to enacting the programs. This summer, Arizona made history by becoming the first state to shift the majority of its public education budget directly to families for their choice of schooling. But today, that measure remains in limbo as groups attempt to block it in court.