DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa.– In a step toward dramatically increasing educational opportunity for students in Pennsylvania’s lowest-performing schools, today Senator John DiSanto unveiled his plan to introduce legislation establishing Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) in the commonwealth.
ESAs are restricted-use accounts supervised by the state and controlled by parents. The state deposits funds earmarked for K-12 education into these accounts, and parents dissatisfied with their assigned public school use these funds for alternative education options.
“Every child deserves an education that fits his or her needs,” commented James Paul, senior policy analyst with the Commonwealth Foundation. “Unfortunately, far too many students are trapped by their zip codes in schools that aren’t adequately preparing them for success in life. This is overwhelmingly true of students from low-income families. ESAs would provide these students the opportunity to access the high-quality educational options they deserve.”
DiSanto’s proposal would authorize ESAs for students relegated to public schools performing in the bottom 15th percent on the PSSAs. Families choosing to participate in the ESA program would withdraw their children from these low-performing schools and use ESA funds on a combination of services, such as private school tuition, tutoring, home school expenses, and speech/behavioral therapy for students with special needs. Unused ESA funds would carry over from year to year.
Six states have implemented ESA programs, and more than a dozen others are moving toward doing so. In an EdChoice study of Arizona’s ESA program, 71 percent of parents were “very satisfied” with the program. In Mississippi, more than 90 percent of parents were satisfied with the program, with 63 percent being “very satisfied”.
“Tens of thousands of students already benefit from Pennsylvania’s tax credit scholarship programs and charter schools, but tens of thousands more are stuck on waiting lists for a better education,” Paul continued. “When it comes to educational opportunity, children should not be waitlisted. ESAs empower parents with the financial resources to choose the best learning environment for their children.”
For more information on ESAs, see Education Savings Accounts: Myths and Facts.
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