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State senator introduces Education Savings Account legislation

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HARRISBURG, Pa. -- New legislation would give some students who attend low-performing public schools more education opportunities in Pennsylvania.

In Harrisburg, State Sen. John DiSanto announced an Education Savings Account bill that would use state education funding. He believes it would help thousands of kids.

DiSanto said, "Help the children achieve their potential. There are real nationwide societal problems that we need to address, but this is a small tool here in Pennsylvania that can really have an impact on lives."

The bill gives state funding to parents of children enrolled in schools performing in the bottom 15 percent across the state, which is about 400 schools.

Brittney Parker, who lives in Harrisburg, "The money shouldn't be tied to a building, or a zip code. It should be however the parents think they can best educate that child. And the Education Savings Account legislation would give families that power."

Parents can use the money, about $5,000 per child, on approved expenses like private school tuition, tutoring services and home school expenses.

But opponents of the bill said it puts state funding in the wrong hands.

Wythe Keever, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Education Association said, "What that would do is take tax dollars and make them available to private and religious schools."

Keever added the state has a broken school funding system.

He said, "We have to take care of the public school needs. The schools that have to accept all children."

Supporters of the new legislation said children should be able to go somewhere other than where their parents' pocketbooks allow them.

Lance Deane, who lives in Harrisburg, said, "I just want to stress the importance to have the opportunity to go wherever you want."

Lavelle Muhammad, the principal at The Nativity School of Harrisburg, said, "This bill will allow us and give us the resources that we can provide a better quality service to our students in our community."

DiSanto said it can be a while, maybe even years, before the legislation passes and the governor signs it.