Using Education Savings Accounts to Customize Education

June 25, 2014

Education savings accounts (ESAs) could become the new face of school choice, writes Stephanie Linn, State Programs and Government Relations Director for the Friedman Foundation.

While vouchers have traditionally been the standard example of school choice policy, ESAs could overtake them. In 2011, Arizona policymakers created Empowerment Scholarship Accounts. The accounts allow parents to purchase a number of educational services -- from books to tutoring to online learning programs -- using funds that would otherwise have been spent on public schooling.

  • Unlike vouchers and tax credit scholarships, the ESA program is customizable, and 34.5 percent of Arizona parents have used ESAs to purchase multiple educational services.
  • Purchases extend beyond the classroom, to tutors, learning therapies and online programs.

The program in Arizona has been a success. Ninety percent of families using ESAs say that they are "highly satisfied" or "satisfied" with the program, with the remaining 10 percent being "somewhat satisfied." Notably, 49 percent of parents using ESAs were not satisfied with the services that their children were receiving from the public school system before they began using the ESA program.

This year, eight states have introduced legislation that would create ESAs, and Florida just became the second state in the nation to adopt the ESA model.

Source: Stephanie Linn, "Milton Friedman, the Father of School Choice...ESAs?" Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, June 24, 2014.

 

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