| October 10, 2011

Fund students, not schools

In a recent OCPA report, Dan Lips explained how Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) can empower parents to customize an education for their children. Now Lindsey Burke, senior education policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, is out with an excellent new memo on ESAs (“Education Savings Accounts: A Promising Way Forward on School Choice”).

A child entering kindergarten today “can expect to have more than $120,000 spent on his or her education by the time the child graduates high school,” she writes. “And approximately 90 percent of that money is derived from state and local sources. Education Savings Accounts operate on the philosophy that parents are best equipped to make the important decisions about their child’s education. Instead of automatically allocating a share of a child’s education funding to the public-school system, ESAs ensure dollars will be spent under the direction of parents, at any school of their choice.”

Burke recommends that state policymakers “transition from funding schools to funding students through Education Savings Accounts, empowering parents with control over their child’s share of education funding. ESA dollars should be universal and available for any education-related purpose, including: private-school tuition, private tutoring, online learning courses, or education-related services. Parents should also be allowed to roll over unused ESA dollars from year to year, or to save ESA funding for college tuition.”

Oklahoma has a fair amount of school choice already, but not nearly enough. ESAs “are broadening the school choice landscape in vital ways,” and it’s time for Oklahoma policymakers to consider them.

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