Editor’s note: This article appeared last week on Baton Rouge’s wrkf.org.
Across the country, a growing number of states are setting up state-funded education savings accounts, or ESAs, to give more students education opportunities outside of public schools. This year, Louisiana would have joined them if not for a pair of vetoes by Gov. John Bel Edwards, who said the policy would have crippled already underfunded public schools.
But Edwards’ days in office are numbered, and Republican lawmakers and lobbyists for the change have shown their willingness to bide their time in hopes of securing a victory in the next major battle for school choice.
Like other voucher programs, ESAs allow families who leave the public school system to take public funding with them and use it to pay for private school, and in some cases, homeschooling, online courses, private tutoring or even college.
But one important way that state-funded ESAs differ from more traditional voucher programs is that rather than give the money directly to schools, the saving account structure means the state gives the money to parents to spend instead — possibly circumventing the legal pitfalls that voucher programs ran into when they funneled public money directly to religious private schools.
While state lawmakers have proposed education savings account bills before this year, Louisiana’s 2022 Regular Session marked the first coordinated effort to bring large-scale ESA programs to the state.
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