Education Savings Accounts Would Enable California's K-12 Students to Thrive: News Releases: The Independent Institute

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News Release
October 24, 2017

Education Savings Accounts Would Enable California’s K-12 Students to Thrive

OAKLAND, CA—A new tool of educational choice already operational in four states would enable California’s K-12 students thrive by allowing parents to customize their children’s education. Education Savings Accounts—or ESAs—put parents in charge of their children’s education funding so they can pay for the educational services and supplies that best meet their children’s needs, including tuition, special education therapies, tutoring, and online curricula. Remaining funds rollover and can be used for future education expenses, including college tuition.

ESAs are easy to use, fiscally responsible, constitutional, and popular. They empower parents to choose how, not just where, their children are educated. ESAs customize learning to degrees no one-size-fits-all system could ever match.

“ESAs empower parents and guardians to customize their children’s education, and would foster an educational landscape that can quickly adapt to meet the diverse needs of students and their families,” writes education policy expert Vicki E. Alger (Research Fellow, Independent Institute) in her new Policy Report, Customized Learning for California: Helping K-12 Students Thrive with Education Savings Accounts.

The concept behind ESAs is simple. Participating parents receive a type of dedicated-use debit card to purchase eligible education services and supplies. ESA funds are disbursed quarterly, but only after parents submit expense reports with receipts for verification. Regular audits help
prevent misspending. If parents misuse funds, they forfeit their child’s ESA and must repay all misused funds or face legal prosecution.

Existing ESA programs rely on public funding through legislative appropriations. In contrast, Alger proposes a California ESA program that relies on tax-credit contributions, much like tax-credit scholarship programs. ESA nonprofit organizations—which would have state oversight—would raise private, tax-favored donations to fund students’ ESAs.

What would be the general fiscal impact of the proposed California ESA program? Alger compares various scenarios. The bottom line: Even if only a very small percentage of public school students used ESAs instead of public schools, a tax-credit ESA program would generate net savings to the state and local school districts.

The nation’s most populous state should be a leader, not a laggard, in K-12 academic performance. ESAs are the most promising tool for helping children thrive.

Vicki E. Alger, Ph.D., is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and the author of Failure: The Federal Misedukation of America’s Children. The Independent Institute is a non-profit, research and educational organization that promotes the power of independent thinking to boldly advance peaceful, prosperous, and free societies grounded in a commitment to human worth and dignity. For more information, visit For media inquiries, contact Publicist Kate Brown: [email protected]; (202) 213-7051 or Communications Manager Rob Ade: [email protected]; (510) 632-1366, ext. 114.

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