February 19 2015
Vicki E. Alger
Parents are enjoying a growing number of policies and programs that give them more power to choose how their children are educated. Private school voucher and tax-credit scholarship programs, charter schools, public school choice, and tax credit and deduction programs are all helping give hundreds of thousands of parents across the country more and better educational options.
Education savings accounts (ESAs) are the latest parental choice innovation. ESAs let parents withdraw their children from public school and instead receive a portion of the funding that would have gone to that public school for their child in a designated savings account. Parents can then use those funds to pay for authorized education expenses, including private school tuition, tutoring, test preparation, and online courses. Any leftover funds remain in the child’s designated ESA and can be used to pay for future education expenses, such as college.
Currently, ESA programs in Arizona and Florida are helping parents of students with unique needs personalize their children’s educational experience, and early research shows that ESAs are working for students. In recent years, Arizona lawmakers have expanded the program to include students in or assigned to failing public schools, students from the foster care system, and students whose parents serve in the military. However, every child is unique, and therefore all states should explore moving toward an ESA system to allow for more personalizing learning for all students.