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Reports from Policy Analysts

State Senators to introduce legislation to help students in low-achieving school districts

Submitted On: Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Analyst: Hower, Aileen

An expansion of the State's Education Savings account program is set to be introduced Tuesday. The Bill's sponsors say these programs are "vital lifelines" for many of these children.

CBS 21 took a closer look at one Central Pennsylvania School District. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, all eight of York City's Schools made the list of low achieving schools for the 2016/2017 school year.

Three State Senators, Representatives Santos, Scarnati III and Eichelberger plan to introduce legislation Tuesday, they say will help students attending those low-achieving schools through the establishment of education savings accounts. These accounts, the Senators say will allow parents to customize an education for their child. The per pupil funding typically provided by the state wouldbe deductedfromthelocaldistrict'ssubsidyand putin anaccount.

Students who are approved will use those funds to cover tuition at a private school, payment for a tutor, and other educational services.

The senators say the state must provide students and parents living within the boundaries of under performing schools with additional options to meet their educational needs.

Of the 5,500 students that attend York city public schools, about 55 percent live in acute poverty according to the school district's annual report.

The state defines extreme poverty as "a serious shortage of income or of access to the range of resources that usually provide the basic necessities for life for humans, such as food, shelter, sanitation, clean water, medical care, and education."

When calculating acute poverty in the commonwealth's 500 school districts, York City ranked the worst.

In 2012, York City Schools were deemed to be in moderate financial recovery, the system says they continue to work to address those financial instabilities and increase enrollment.

By June of 2019, they say they plan to close the achievement gap in reading, math and proficiency scores. They also say they will eliminate the gap between the district's graduation rate and the state's.

That annual report shows that the York City School District spends almost $10,000 per elementary student and $9,000 per secondary student. The district pays $8,600 to charter schools per regular education student and $25,600 per special education student.

The Pennsylvania Education Association says these kinds of education savings accounts which have failed in other states, don't do anything to help public education where 1.7 million Commonwealth students are educated. The President of the PSEA Jerry Oleksiak, say that's why lawmakers should reject proposals like this.

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