Today, Senator John DiSanto (R-Dauphin County) introduced Senate Bill 2, which would establish education savings accounts (ESAs) in Pennsylvania. ESAs are an innovative education choice program providing alternatives for students in the state’s lowest-performing school districts.
With ESAs, state education funding earmarked for a student’s local school district would be deposited into a restricted-use account supervised by the state and controlled by parents. Families qualifying for ESAs would withdraw their child from public school and use ESA funds to customize their child’s education with approved options such as tutoring, private school tuition, or therapy for students with special needs.
“For far too long, many students across the commonwealth have been trapped in consistently failing public schools through no fault of their own,” commented Charles Mitchell, president and CEO of the Commonwealth Foundation. “From Erie to Philadelphia and dozens of cities in between, this has taken a toll on our communities and has blocked students from realizing their potential. Education savings accounts would open doors of opportunity for Pennsylvania students, transforming their lives by giving them access to high-quality educational options that meet their unique needs and learning styles.
“We applaud Sen. DiSanto, and the bill’s twenty-one co-sponsors, for spearheading this educational lifeline for Pennsylvania’s students and empowering parents with the financial resources to choose the best learning environment for their children.”
Six states have implemented ESA programs, and more than a dozen are considering the policy. In an EdChoice study of Arizona’s ESA program, 71 percent of parents were “very satisfied” with the program. And in Mississippi, more than 90 percent of parents were satisfied, with 63 percent being “very satisfied.”
DiSanto’s bill would authorize ESAs for students relegated to public schools performing in the bottom 15 percent on the PSSAs. Families choosing to participate in the ESA program could use ESA funds on a combination of services, such as private school tuition, tutoring, and speech/behavioral therapy for students with special needs. Unused ESA funds would carry over from year to year.
“Despite many students already benefiting from charter schools, tax credit scholarships, and homeschooling, tens of thousands remain stuck on waiting lists,” Mitchell continued. “When it comes to educational opportunity, no child should be waitlisted. ESAs put students first.”
For more information on ESAs, see Education Savings Accounts: Myths and Facts.
Commonwealth Foundation experts are available for comment. Please contact Jonathan Reginella at 717-943-1796 or [email protected] to schedule an interview.
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