This week PSBA presented testimony to the Senate Education Committee opposing Senate Bill 1230 (Sen. Ward, R-Blair), that establishes “Back on Track” Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), a voucher program that would direct federal CARES Act money to create grants given to parents to be used for private schools and other private educational service organizations. Representing the association at the hearing was PSBA Chief Advocacy Officer John Callahan.
Callahan said that vouchers would divert resources away from public schools when they need it the most, emphasizing the increased mandates and costs facing districts during the pandemic. He also said that Senate Bill 1230 does not contain necessary financial or academic accountability measures and that the proposal goes well beyond the purpose of helping students get “back on track” by allowing recipients to use taxpayer funding for a variety of vague educational expenses.
Additionally, he noted, the claim that the bill is intended to help students living in poverty is misleading; further, families and private schools already have programs intended to help pay for education expenses, including the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) programs as well as federal law that allows families to put aside money into accounts for K-12 education expenses. Callahan concluded by asking legislators to instead focus their efforts on solutions that would assist public schools in coping with the effects of the pandemic.
Click here to read PSBA's testimony.