Arizona has concocted and has implemented a scheme that directs state dollars to education savings accounts, thus bypassing the public education bureaucracy which generally takes anywhere from $6 to $8 of every $10 allocated for public education.
Think of the equivalent of "health savings accounts" or "Individual Retirement [Savings] Accounts (IRAs)" in the form of an educational debit card.
Terrible "conservative" and "Republican" ideas, no?
In Arizona, these education savings accounts are called "Empowerment Scholarship Accounts" (ESAs) which enable parents of certain students to tailor the way their children are educated by allowing parents to withdraw these children from their public or charter schools. 90% of the funds the State would have spent on these students are then deposited directly into the ESAs to be spent for those students as their parents see fit.
Enacted in 2011, ESAs were only available to parents of children with special needs. In 2012, active-duty military families, foster children, and parents with children in public schools graded D or F under the State's accountability system became eligible. This year, ESAs were further to include incoming kindergarten students who meet the eligibility requirements.
Currently, parents can use ESA for these education-related expenses:
- Private school tuition and fees.
- Education therapy services and aides.
- Private online learning courses.
- Advanced placement exams, norm-referenced achievement tests and college admission exams.
- Tutoring, textbooks and curriculum.
- Contributions to a 529 college savings plan.
- College tuition and textbooks.
- ESA management fees.
- Individual public school classes and programs.
Here's the best part of the deal: Parents can rollover unused ESA funds from year to year, saving the unspent funds for each child's future education-related expenses. In this way, the scheme potentially deals a mortal blow to the public school establishment as the option to rollover the ESA creates an incentive for parents to judge K-12 educational service providers on quality, that is, the "opportunity" cost.
This scheme deserves careful attention primarily because returns the previous parental right in the education of their children to where it belongs: Each child's parents.
More importantly, this scheme deserves careful attention to determine whether it should be expanded to all students. If this experiment does prove workable in Arizona's "laboratory of democracy," ESAs could then be expanded across the United States. That is, unless the educational establishment and its K Street lobbyists as well as the public school teachers' unions continue exerting their stranglehold upon public education...in the best interests of the students, of course.
Let the discussion begin...
To learn about the State of Arizona ESA scheme, click on the following link: