NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Education Savings Accounts

October 1, 2015

Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) has failed to meet its objective of improving in the most effective way possible the educational outcomes for children from disadvantaged families. The nearly $15 billion Title I program consists of formula grants that have little relationship to actual poverty.

As long as Congress uses federal tax dollars to aid states with education of disadvantaged children, Congress should ensure that the tax dollars actually achieve that objective and do so efficiently and effectively. To that end, Congress should replace the existing Title I program with a straightforward and effective program that allows states the flexibility to make Title I dollars "portable," so that the dollars follow the child to the school or education option parents choose as best for their child.

  • The federal Title I program, part of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, has become cumbersome and obsolete, with distributions today having little connection to school-district-level poverty.
  • States should have the option of making their Title I dollars portable, and state policymakers should allow students to use Title I funding for individual courses, online learning, textbooks, and a host of other education-related      services, products and providers.
  • States should establish education savings accounts (ESAs), as offered in Arizona and Nevada, and allow parents to deposit their Title I dollars into an Education Savings Account (ESA).

With Title I distributions based on a set per-pupil allocation, states would have the opportunity to deposit funds in parentally controlled ESAs, creating a powerful tool for low-income families to direct their child's education.

Congress should also include strong protections for religious, home, and other private schools, to ensure that acceptance of those funds to educate the child does not bring the federal bureaucracy into the school.

Source: Lindsey Burke, "From Piecemeal to Portable: Transforming Title I into a Student-Centered Support System," Heritage Foundation, September 28, 2015.

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