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House GOP member sponsors plan to discount property taxes during pandemic

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(The Center Square) – A Pennsylvania House Republican lawmaker thinks families should get a discount on property taxes during the pandemic, especially if parents opt to keep their children out of district schools.

“Parents who take their kids out of public education and pay elsewhere deserve a property tax break,” said Rep. Russ Diamond, R-Lebanon, in a Tweet on Friday afternoon.

Diamond linked to a cosponsorship memo that encouraged other lawmakers to sign onto legislation that would discount property taxes equal to the amount a family spends on alternative education expenses – including tuition, suppliers and tutoring, among other costs.

“No parent should be forced to send their child to a school which is not enacting mitigation policies the parent deems appropriate,” he said in the memo. “In fulfilling our constitutional duty regarding education, we are obligated to make every effort to make sure parents are able to be confident in how their children will be educated during this disaster emergency.”

The Department of Education tasked the state’s 500 school districts in June with devising and implementing their own social distancing plans for when in-person instruction resumes in the fall. The state’s “general guidance” has resulted in a patchwork of differing policies and attitudes among districts about how to safely bring students back into the classroom, with many still undecided of how to proceed.

Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said Thursday, however, that climbing rates of positivity across the state and an exponential growth in new COVID-19 cases – more than 6,000 diagnosed since Monday, alone – could keep school doors closed next month after all.

The pressure to reopen schools in the fall extends across the country, with President Donald Trump serving as the most vocal and high profile supporter of the move.

“So what we want to do is we want to get our schools open,” he said during a July 7 news conference. “We want to get them open quickly, beautifully, in the fall. And the – as you know, this is a disease that’s a horrible disease, but young people do extraordinarily well.”

The administration argues that children’s mental health and well-being will suffer if in-person instruction doesn’t resume. Parents also face difficult choices about how to continue working if their school-age children must remain at home.

“Children’s mental health and social development must be as much of a priority as physical health,” said first lady Melania Trump earlier this month. “The same is true for parents. Many will be forced to make stressful choices between caring for their children and going back to work. And we must address those needs as well, as their own mental health and well-being.”

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