A plan to provide educational opportunities for at-risk students in Pennsylvania cleared a legislative hurdle on Tuesday, May 22, with the Senate Education Committee’s approval.
The proposal, Senate Bill 2, backed by state Senator John DiSanto would create state-funded, flexible, spending accounts for individual students.
Prior to the committee vote, DiSanto said, “This program is designed to help the children that are most vulnerable, the parents that have the least ability financially to provide for their children and it gives them a lifeline.”
Parents would be able to use the funds to pay for Department of Education-approved educational expenses such as non-public school tuition, higher education tuition, textbooks and curriculum, testing and industry certifications. Eligible expenses for children with disabilities would also include occupational, physical, speech and behavioral therapies. Parents will receive a portion of the statewide average funding per pupil (between $5,000 and $6,000), and students with special needs will be eligible for additional support based on their disability. Unused funds could roll over from one year to the next. Unspent ESA dollars could even be used to pay for college.
“Where ESAs are in place in the seven different states where they operate, they tend to help public schools improve because they have to compete.”
Under DiSanto’s plan, families in the low-performing school districts would have access to a state-funded, flexible spending account through an ESA. Families could direct the funds to a qualified school that best meets the needs of their child or to pay for other support to help their child succeed.
The full Senate will now take up the bill for a vote.