8 pages, 220 KB

Texas usually ranks among the top ten states in the country in economic performance and business climate. But when it comes to innovation in K-12 education, the Lone Star State is a laggard, not a leader.

A recent poll, however, finds that Texans are eager for their state to adopt a new policy tool that helps parents customize education to fit the unique needs of their children: Education Savings Accounts (ESAs).

“Nearly half of Texas parents surveyed (47 percent) said they would prefer a private school for their child, and 71 percent of them support ESAs, based on recent findings from EdChoice,” says education policy expert Vicki E. Alger (Research Fellow, Independent Institute), author of the new Independent book, Failure: The Federal Misedukation of America’s Children.

Alger makes the case for Texas to adopt ESAs in a Briefing paper jointly produced by Independent Institute and the Texas Public Policy Foundation, “Education Savings Accounts for Texas: How Educational Choice through ESAs Creates Greater Innovation and Quality.”

ESAs allow every parent to supplement their child’s education—not simply those with the most means. Currently five states have enacted ESA programs. While each program is unique, they share common characteristics, Alger explains. Parents manage their children’s ESAs for the exclusive individual benefit of their child. They are administered by authorized state agencies and/or approved financial institutions.

ESA funds may be used only for approved education-related services, including distance learning courses, tutoring services, educational therapies and related aid from accredited and licensed therapists, limited transportation services, tests, books, curricula, tuition and fees for public schools or any accredited private school. Funds not used in one year can be rolled over for future education expenses, including college tuition.

Support for ESAs in Texas, according to Alger, may stem partly from their success in Arizona, where 100 percent of ESA-participating parents surveyed report they are “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their state’s program.

Alger believes that a universal ESA program in Texas not only would be fair, it would also greatly expand the supply of educational providers and foster more innovation and higher quality in education.