ESA and the bucking of the booted and spurred

Tyton Partners provided an update on the status of Education Savings Accounts programs:

Since being introduced in Arizona, ESAs have been enacted in 12 additional states; in six states, the programs provide universal eligibility, meaning every student in the state can elect to participate regardless of income, race, or local public-school quality. With an average spending of $7,000 per student, the total addressable market (TAM) for students already eligible for ESAs is $71.4 billion. It is expected to grow as more states introduce ESAs and universal eligibility. In Tyton’s upcoming research on ESAs, Paying for Choice 2024, we found that 10.2 million students are currently eligible for ESA participation.

Tyton, a strategy consulting and investment banking firm focused on the educator sector, goes on to note ongoing investments in ESA management, new school models and transportation innovation:

In the midst of this educational evolution, ESAs are unlocking new possibilities, reshaping the dynamics of school choice, and putting pressure on public K-12 systems in potentially profound ways. The scale of the spending shift that may occur in states with these programs could create a tidal wave, washing away some programs and models and while simultaneously launching others to unanticipated heights.

This will take time to unfold. Fasten your seat belts; the ride will be turbulent. ESAs will richly reward the states with the wisdom and fortitude to embrace them. These rewards will include a better performing public school system and an increased attractiveness for young families across the country. You should understand ESAs, however, as a part of a wider K-12 liberation movement underway that continues to gain momentum.

Walter Russell Mead recently wrote a piece called “The Twilight of the Wonks” explaining his view of why Americans of various political persuasions are done with having their lives ordered by their alleged meritocratic superiors. Walter Russell Mead approvingly quotes Thomas Jefferson:

“[T]he mass of mankind,” wrote Thomas Jefferson in 1826, “has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately …”

I recommend this piece and note further that no field of American life is the word “alleged” more richly justified than in K-12. Charter schools, home-schools, micro-schools, school choice scholarships, tuition tax credits and most recently ESAs all represent expressions of a growing desire and need to buck the obese and spurred riders off the backs of American families.

Americans have begun the process of cutting out the K-12 middle-man and directly empowering educators. Our booted and spurred would-be riders will howl over the supposed injustice of losing their mount every step of the way. You, dear reader, should regard this as theme music of liberation, and proof-positive that you are in fact on the right track.

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BY Matthew Ladner

Matthew Ladner is executive editor of NextSteps. He has written numerous studies on school choice, charter schools and special education reform, and his articles have appeared in Education Next; the Catholic Education: A Journal of Inquiry and Practice; and the British Journal of Political Science. He is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and received a master's degree and a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Houston. He lives in Phoenix with his wife and three children.

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