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Hampton school board opposes Pennsylvania education savings account bill

| Monday, Feb. 26, 2018, 11:00 p.m.
Hampton Township High School
Hampton Township High School

The Hampton Township School Board is telling the state Legislature that a Senate bill that would give students in underperforming schools access to an education savings account would not benefit Pennsylvania public school districts.

The legislation would provide state funding from “public schools to charter schools, licensed tutors and other private education programs,” and could take away funding from low-achieving schools, said Robert Shages, school board member, who informed fellow board members about the voucher program at a recent board meeting.

The funding “comes specifically from the individual district where the child is from,” he said.

Shages said it would hurt low-achieving public schools.

The Pennsylvania School Board Association provided an opposition letter that could be used by school boards that want to oppose the bill. Shages recommended fellow board members support its opposition to the bill using the PSBA's letter.

Steve Robinson, senior director of communications for the PSBA, said the voucher essentially takes money from struggling schools and gives it to private schools.

“Our taxes pay someone's private education,” he said.

The bill was presented by Republican Sens. John DiSanto, Joseph B. Scarnati III, and John H. Eichelberger Jr. in July.

It states that children in Pennsylvania are “relegated to persistently underperforming schools based on nothing more than a home address” and that school choice programs such as charter and scholarship tax credits are “vital lifelines.”

The funding could be used for private K-12 school, higher education, distance-learning not offered by the public school and tutoring, according to the bill.

Under the bill's provisions, children would be withdrawn from their public school and given the state average funding per pupil in a savings account deducted from the district's state education subsidies. The bill said a student's funding would be in the form of a grant in an account held by the Department of Treasury.

All transactions would be monitored to ensure the money is spent on educational services, according to the bill.

It would allow money to be used for a special education student in need of occupational, speech or behavioral therapies if a district doesn't provide adequate services.

Natalie Beneviat is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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