In 1991, the idea of a publicly-funded, privately-operated school seemed like a crazy idea. Twenty-five years later, we’re readily familiar with charter schools, particularly since more than 6,000 of them dot the U.S.
In 1986, the idea of taking your children out of public or private school and teaching them at home was only the territory of liberal hippies and religious fundamentalists. Thirty years later, homeschooling is highly accepted, honored, and growing dramatically.
In the long-established education world, it’s easy to scoff at new ideas as ridiculous, but as the quick growth and acceptance of the charter and homeschool movements show us, the education ideas which seem strange and ridiculous today may quickly become the norm tomorrow.
Such seems to be the case with the new school choice option known as Education Savings Accounts (ESAs). ESAs allow parents to take most of the funds the state would use to educate their child and utilize them outside of the public system. This empowers parents to create an education plan best suited to their child’s needs. It also promises to make college more affordable, as parents can put each year’s leftover funds towards their child’s post-high school education.
Four years ago, ESAs were only a blip on the radar screen. Today, five states are implementing such a program, and the most recent state to jump on the bandwagon has boldly gone where no other states have before. According to Investor’s Business Daily:
“Nevada has enacted what might be the most sweeping school-choice program yet — a path-breaking win for educational freedom that has left teachers unions wondering what hit them.
The law, signed Friday, gives 450,000 public school kids the option of using taxpayer funds — through what are called ‘education savings accounts’ or ESAs — to help pay the tuition for private schools. Families can use funds in these accounts to also pay for textbooks and tutoring.
Students from families with incomes under 185% of the federal poverty level may receive tuition aid of 100% of the statewide average of public school per-pupil costs. Kids in families with incomes above 185% of the poverty level, roughly $45,000 for a family of four, will qualify for up to 90% of the public school per-student cost.
This is big. Really big. About five states already have ESA programs, but no other state comes close to universal student eligibility. Nevada will soon have full competition in education between public and private schools.”
Education Savings Accounts may be a relatively new idea in the education world, but their growing popularity suggests that they could soon become commonly accepted.