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Back On Track Bill: Pa. State Senate Discusses Bill To Help Low-Income Families With Schooling Costs

HARRISBURG, PA (KDKA) - It was a back and forth debate in Harrisburg on Monday morning as lawmakers discussed the possibility of handing out Federal CARES Act money to families to offset COVID schooling costs.

"They need help affording tutors or online remedial classes. Some kids need counseling in order to deal with the trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many children need computers for online learning, others need help affording the internet," said Colleen Hroncich with The Commonwealth Foundation.

National statistics show families will spend $790 on remote learning expenses, but with a drop in income for many families, where is that money coming from?

"These scholarships would provide $1,000 to parents for each K-12 student, prioritizing low-income students first," said Senator Judy Ward who is the primary sponsor of SB 1230.

Lawmakers introduced this Senate Bill also known as the "Back on Track" bill to help alleviate that financial burden.

"Educational resources should not be a luxury, it should be a necessity and we are in October, October. We need help and we need help now," said Natalie Wallace who is a mom of four.

On Monday, the Senate Education Committee hosted a panel, and not all education leaders are on board with the proposed legislation. The $1,000 for low-income families would come from $500 million of the state's federal CARES Act money.

"If there is a desire by the General Assembly to invest $500 million of the remaining Cares relief public funding for PA K-12 students, we implore you to invest in proven solutions that help all students," said Rich Askey who is the President of Pa. State Education Association.

The main opponents to the bill believe the extra federal money should go to the public school districts who are facing increased costs and can put it towards programs that help all families not just low income.

"I think the bottom line is providing additional COVID funds to Pennsylvania students and schools is essential, but SB 1230 is not the way to do that in our perspective," said Hannah Barrick with PA Association of School Business Officials.

If the bill passes, the $1,000 would be a one-time payment to be used only for approved education expenses. The issue for some lawmakers is that one approved expense is private education tuition.

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