It is ironic that while Americans are able to freely choose what commercial luxuries to invest in, we are not able to freely invest in our most precious commodity: our children, and our children’s future.
Expanding choice in education means expanding opportunity for children and creating a more responsive education system. In a system where parents have a choice, schools will be more attuned to making sure they serve the needs of students. That kind of dynamic system will help improve all schools.
Arizona has led the way in creating that type of dynamic system.
Arizona’s groundbreaking education savings accounts (ESA) allow families to use 90 percent of the state funds that would have gone to the child’s assigned public school to instead be deposited directly into an ESA.
ESAs open doors to the free market of schooling options, including and not limited to: private-school tuition, online education, private tutoring, and special education services. Unused funds can even be rolled over year-to-year, and can even be rolled into a 529 college savings account. It is an education option that would make Milton Friedman proud, and one he might even consider a refinement of his original idea of school vouchers.
Arizona is the only state that has implemented this new system, thus far. The Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Account program has tripled its active accounts since it began in 2011. The program was originally intended for special education students; however, it was expanded to include low-income students who attend failing schools, children of active-duty military families, and children in the Arizona foster care system. These changes will be in place by the start of the next school year.
Education savings accounts have opened new doors of opportunity: more freedom, more choices, and parental empowerment. And as states consider expanding or implementing school choice options, ESAs should be at the top of their list.
Brittany Corona is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm.