Pennsylvania lawmakers divided over proposal to provide families $1,000 per child for education expenses

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Education in Pennsylvania remains a hot button topic, and as a state Senate committee heard testimony Monday on a bill that would give families stimulus funding for educational-related expenses, one lawmaker called for a truce.

a small child sitting on a table

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That was state Sen. Andy Dinniman’s hope when the Senate Education Committee’s hearing started. The panel heard from both proponents and opponents of Senate Bill 1230, which would give families $1,000 per child for educational purposes. The money could be used by parents to buy a computer for their kids’ remote learning, pay for tutoring or even cover private school tuition bills.

“Whether you like this bill or you don’t like this bill, what is happening in our schools is a problem,” said Dinniman, the West Chester Democrat and minority chair on the committee. “We have to come together to solve this problem, and we have to stop the educational wars that go on.”

After Monday’s hearing, while both sides may be interested in an armistice, they remain far apart and their differences on SB 1230 show why.

State Sen. Judy Ward, R-Hollidaysburg, said the purpose of the bill is to use federal CARES Act funding to help parents ensure their children do not fall behind academically as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, which forced schools to close last spring and prompted many to continue at least some form of remote learning this fall.

Public education advocates like aspects of the bill but wonder if the $500 million set aside could be put to better use, such as developing a statewide broadband network that could be utilized by students in rural and underserved areas at no cost. Students in those areas have had a tougher time adjusting to the nontraditional learning environment.

Dr. Eric Eshbach, the assistant executive