Funding all students through education savings accounts: a vision for the future

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey at signing ceremony for bill that massively expanded education savings accounts

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on The author, Jude Schwalbach, is an education policy analyst at Reason Foundation.

After an Arizona citizens’ referendum failed to block the state’s massive expansion of Empowerment Scholarship Accounts last month, the Grand Canyon State now leads the nation in education customization.

Arizona’s education savings account (ESA) expansion was a critical school-choice success, but the story should not stop here. Policymakers can do two things that go beyond Arizona’s reforms to truly revolutionize a state’s education system: make ESAs the default option for all students and eliminate residential assignment in public schools.

First, policymakers should not limit ESAs to those opting out of public schools but rather make these accounts the default funding system for all students. Instead of funding school districts based on factors such as property wealth, local tax effort, and complex formulas, state and local education funds would be streamlined and deposited into each student’s account.

Under this system, these accounts would not just be used for private school tuition payments. Parents who enroll their children in public schools would pay these schools directly and could also use education savings accounts to pay for tutoring, courses at a community college, classes at a nearby public school, transportation, and more.

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