Senator DiSanto explains why his legislation creating Education Savings Accounts is needed to help children in low-performing schools receive a quality education.
Harrisburg—Senator John DiSanto joined parents, students, school officials and community leaders at the Joshua Learning Center today to announce his Education Savings Account (ESA) legislation, Senate Bill 2, for students attending public schools performing in the bottom 15 percent statewide.
ESAs are state-funded, flexible spending accounts that parents can use to pay for Department of Education-approved educational expenses such as private 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 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 roll over from one year to the next. Unspent ESA dollars can even be used to pay for college.
“Too many Pennsylvania children are consigned to chronically underperforming schools that fail to prepare students for college or careers. Families without the means or good fortune face significantly limited educational opportunities,” said Senator DiSanto. “Waitlists for charter schools and tax credit scholarships are in the tens of thousands. ESAs significantly expand opportunities for students seeking a better education.”
Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse offered his support: “ESAs are among the tools many parents are using throughout the nation to take their children out of failing schools and put them into learning environments with track records of success.”
“ESAs are a great addition to Pennsylvania’s existing tax credit programs,” added Otto Banks, executive director of the REACH Foundation. “ESAs can be used to eradicate poverty, build strong communities, and stabilize local economies by providing all children access to a high-quality education in safe, secure, and mentally-stimulating environments.”
“One of the most sacred duties a parent performs in raising their children is giving them an education that shapes their hearts and minds. Yet, too many families in our Commonwealth lack access to high quality schools that are effective partners in this important work and cannot afford alternatives,” said Aaron Anderson, Head of School at Logos Academy in York. “Educational Savings Accounts are a way of recognizing that parents are the best arbiters of what is best for their children.”
Earlier this year, the House and Senate Education Committees held a joint public hearing on ESAs and received testimony from parents and education experts. Senator DiSanto said committee members were interested in the concept and expects the Senate to consider this legislation in the fall session.
Chuck Erdman, Chief of Staff
Office of Senator John DiSanto (PA-15)
352 Main Capitol
Harrisburg, PA 17120-3015