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05/10/2021 03:42 PM
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/Legis/CSM/showMemoPublic.cfm?chamber=H&SPick=20210&cosponId=34831
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House of Representatives
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session

MEMORANDUM

Posted: February 25, 2021 01:10 PM
From: Representative Andrew Lewis
To: All House members
Subject: Excellent Education for All Act
 
All students deserve an excellent education. No matter a child’s ZIP code, educational needs, or income, they should have access to the best schools and quality teaching that will give them the potential to succeed and the opportunities they deserve.
 
Now more than ever, we’re seeing that in order to best prepare the next generation, we cannot take a one size fits all approach to education. There is no denying that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has further highlighted the need for increased educational opportunity.
 
To best serve the education needs of ALL students during and after the coronavirus pandemic, we must empower parents so they can choose the educational options that work best for their children.
 
In the near future, I am introducing comprehensive legislation called “The Excellent Education for All Act”, which would put parents in the driver’s seat of their children’s education by providing additional resources for our most vulnerable students, while ensuring all families have equal access and maximum flexibility in schooling options.
 
While each aspect of the bill is explained in greater detail below, the key components include:
 
  • Educational Opportunity Accounts for PA’s most vulnerable students
  • Expansion of the existing EITC/OSTC tax credit scholarship programs
  • Charter school reforms and innovations
  • Equal access to the best public education, regardless of ZIP code
  • Protections for coronavirus learning pods
 
Targeted Educational Opportunity Accounts (EOAs)
 
Every child deserves a fair opportunity to succeed, no matter their background, their family’s income, or their ZIP code. Parents should be able to customize their child’s education to fit their individual needs. One way to ensure every student has access to high quality educational opportunities is through educational opportunity accounts (EOAs). EOAs allow parents to access the school, services, and tools their children need to meet their individual learning needs. Targeted EOAs focus on Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable students, ensuring they too have a chance at a quality education.
 
Targeted EOAs would focus on providing flexible support and resources to the following children and their parents:
  • Students with a special need or disability
  • Students of an active-duty military parent
  • Students in a low-income household
  • Students assigned to a low-performing school
 
Expanding Pennsylvania’s Successful Tax Credit Scholarship Programs
 
Pennsylvania’s tax credit scholarship programs allow businesses and community leaders to support educational opportunity and Pennsylvania schoolchildren. Unfortunately, the existing program caps are holding back students in need of support. Last year alone, 43,000 students applied for scholarships but were denied—often through a lottery system. At the same time, there is a waiting list of more than $121 million to donate funds under the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC).
 
Expanding the EITC/OSTC programs and basing program limits on student need will ensure Pennsylvania low-income students won’t be left on waitlists, longing for better educational opportunities.
 
Enhanced EITC and OSTC programs would:
  • Increase the EITC program from $185 million to $250 million;
  • Increase the OSTC program from $55 million to $100 million; and
  • Increase both programs annually by 25%, if 90% of the available scholarships are allocated.
 
Charter School Innovation
 
Charter schools have proven to be the best educational option for hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania students. While charter schools are successful and popular, teachers, parents, and educational opportunity advocates should have more access to founding and maintaining quality charter schools in their community.
 
Charter school innovations would:
  • Create a statewide charter authorization board, as well as ensure local communities can create charter options through local school boards, colleges and universities, and local government leaders;
  • Strengthen and clarify ethics requirements for charter school leaders;
  • Provide charter school students access to school buildings and testing sites; and
  • Allow charter school students the opportunity to participate in dual enrollment programs at institutions of higher education, just like their peers in district schools.
 
Learning Pod Protections
 
The coronavirus pandemic presented unprecedented challenges for education. Many students and families experienced frustrations with online learning. As a result, many families turned to homeschooling and “learning pods,” which give small groups of students the chance to safely interact with their peers both in-person and online.
 
The Learning Pod Protection provisions would:
  • Further define Learning Pods, to cover all voluntary associations of parents for educational enhancement purposes;
  • Exempt Learning Pods from state, local, and district regulatory activity; and
  • Create a series of affirmative protections for Learning Pods, ensuring that parents and children choosing to participate in such activities are not subject to undue surveillance, reporting, regulatory demands or harassment.
 
Free Districts
 
Kids deserve to attend the school that’s best for them. Yet, local school boards currently determine which students are eligible to attend public schools in each district. The Free Districts Act would allow Pennsylvania students to access the public school that best fits their needs, regardless of ZIP code.
 
The Free Districts provision would:
  • Repeal antiquated language allowing districts to control which students can access public education in their districts; and
  • Provide for equal access to the best public education in the state.
Please join me in this effort by co-sponsoring this crucial legislation to ensure that every kid in Pennsylvania has access to a world-class education, regardless of their zip code -- and as a result can pursue and achieve the American Dream.