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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

ESAs expand in red and purple states, states, and blue-staters are interested too

"Capitalizing on parent’s frustration with public schools during the pandemic," Republican governors are pushing for education savings accounts, reports Linda Jacobson on The 74. In the eight states that have ESAs, parents who've withdrawn their children from public schools can use state funds to pay for private school, tutoring, online courses and other education expenses.

For example, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, wants the state to spend the same amount per student -- $7,598 -- on all children whether they attend public schools or not.

"Governors proposing the programs draw inspiration from the recent expansion of Arizona’s “empowerment scholarship” and Florida’s long history of taxpayer-funded private school choice," writes Jacobson.

Arizona’s program — which provides about $7,000 per student — is like the “holy grail of school choice” because it’s not restricted to certain groups of families, said Tom Greene, vice president of advocacy for ExcelinEd, an education reform think tank.
Under Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida has consolidated multiple scholarship programs and raised eligibility to $111,000 for a family of four. And this year, Republicans have introduced a plan to further expand the program to more families, potentially leaping over Arizona to become the state with the largest ESA enrollment.

Many parents in blue states are open to ESAs, according to a recent survey by Yes. Every Kid, a school choice advocacy group, and YouGov, writes Jacobson. Sixty percent of parents favored ESAs, while 15 percent were opposed. "Democrats were actually slightly more supportive than Republicans — 58% to 55%," she notes.

Still, some Democratic governors are resisting. Arizona's newly elected governor, Katie Hobbs, has pledged to repeal the ESA expansion, saying it could cost the state $1.5 billion over a 10-year period.

Hobbs doesn't have the votes to reverse the decision, reports Emma Camp on Reason.

ESAs are very popular with Arizonans, according to a Morning Consult poll, write Jason Bedrick and Corey DeAngelis in The Wall Street Journal. Some 67% of Arizonans and 77% of parents with school-aged children support ESAs, they write. "Enrollment has surged to 45,000 from 10,000 since the expansion."

The momentum for educational savings account is "irreversible," argues Matthew Ladner on reimaginED.

1 Comment

Jan 25, 2023

If ESA end up similar to 529 accounts, it will just be welfare for the upper middle class. See Richard V. Reeves book "Dream Hoarding." SD

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