PA Senate approves voucher program

    The state Senate’s Appropriations Committee has approved and expanded a bill creating a school vouchers program.  The measure is now set for a full Senate vote.

    The Senate could vote on the vouchers bill later this week.

    The committee amended the measure, putting a 250 million dollar annual cap on the amount of voucher money spent on poor students who don’t live within low-performing school districts.

    The new language also allows public schools to apply for voucher money in the program’s fourth year, as sponsor Jeff Piccola, a Dauphin County Republican, explains.

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    “Plus whatever isn’t used by the public schools would go into a middle class voucher, targeting parents whose income is 130 percent of poverty up to 300 percent of poverty,” said Piccola.

    The public school grants would let public schools accept students from other districts on a voluntary basis, and then cover the additional cost with state funding.

    Piccola’s plan slowly expands: in its first year, only poor students in failing schools can apply for the state grants.

    In year two, low-income students in any underperforming district are eligible.

    By the program’s third year, any family making 130 percent of the federal poverty level or less would be eligible.

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