A group of state lawmakers are introducing a bill they say would give students in Pennsylvania’s lowest-performing schools more options for their education.
The plan would create school savings accounts, which would allow parents to take control of the money that would be spent on their kids in the public school system, and enable them to use it for alternative education options.
Republican Senator John DiSanto of Dauphin County described the savings accounts as being about giving kids and their parents more agency.
“This is not a panacea…there are real nationwide problems that we need to address,” he noted, when asked about fixing entrenched funding inadequacies in Pennsylvania’s public school system. “But this is a small tool in Pennsylvania [where] we can really have an impact.”
The accounts would be available to students at the bottom 15 percent of the commonwealth’s schools. According to the Department of Education’s assessment, almost 400 schools qualify.
The money could go toward private or parochial school tuition, homeschooling, or other school-related expenses like textbooks. It’s designed to be rolled over year to year, and any extra funds can be put toward college expenses.
Money would be allocated based on average per-pupil state funding—around $5,700 annually. That wouldn’t necessarily cover full tuition at a private school, but DiSanto said it puts it within reach for many parents.
“I think that the [savings accounts] will give the opportunity—for parents who are engaged and want more for their children—the real opportunity to make a difference in their lives,” he said.
A spokesman for Governor Tom Wolf said there is concern the accounts would divert too many funds from public schools, and could “further the inequity of state funding for education and lead to property tax increases.”