Senate Bill 1015 will empower parents to send their child to a school that better aligns with their unique health, safety, and educational needs
(HARRISBURG) – State Senator Ryan Aument (R-36) has introduced legislation that would create a universal Education Savings Account (ESA) for parents and students to utilize during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Aument said the bill is of particular importance now because the educational disruption experienced by students for the past two years has been immense. Experts say that many students do not excel in the remote learning format, and their educational and emotional growth has been harmed because of it.
“Parents have seen the negative impact on their children from not having in-person instruction,” said Aument. “If schools will not remain open, students and their families deserve options to ensure every child receives a high-quality education.”
The proposal, Senate Bill 1015, will be similar to previous ESA bills that have been circulated in the General Assembly in that it will utilize a universal fund intended to give parents the flexibility to send their child to a school of their choice.
Eligible parents would be authorized to use money transferred into an education savings account to offset costs associated with educational alternatives to their public school which could include services such as tutors, at-home instructional content, tuition, and testing.
“By removing financial barriers to accessing these valuable tools, Pennsylvania students struggling with learning loss will have a greater chance of getting back on track,” said Aument in a recent op-ed entitled When it Comes to Education: More Options, Less Arguments. “Education Savings Accounts will increase access to expanded educational options, offering students, parents, and teachers alike more learning opportunities that are better suited for all.”
This temporary program would expire when the state exits the pandemic and moves into the endemic phase of COVID-19 and would be paid for using federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. In utilizing federal funds, this program would not financially disadvantage public schools as no current education appropriation would be altered or reduced.
In August of 2021, Aument vowed to sponsor a bill that would give parents the flexibility they deserve to send their children to schools that more closely align with their individual health, safety, and educational needs shortly after the Pennsylvania Secretary of Health issued a statewide school mask mandate (which the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has since struck down),. As a strong proponent of local decision-making since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Aument quickly came out against the Wolf Administration’s one-size-fits-all mask mandate, saying that school districts and locally elected officials are better positioned to make important policy decisions based on the unique needs of the communities they serve.
“If parents feel strongly about their school district’s COVID-19 policies, they should have the opportunity to send their child to a school that better suits their needs,” said Aument. “Parents know what is best for their child, so empowering them to choose the best school for their family will help improve educational outcomes across the board.”
Senate Bill 1015 has been referred to the Senate Education Committee for consideration.
CONTACT: Stephanie Applegate (717) 787-4420