Education savings accounts are the way of the future.
Under such accounts—managed by parents with state supervision to ensure accountability—parents can use their children’s education funding to choose among public and private schools, online education programs, certified private tutors, community colleges, and even universities. Education savings accounts bring Milton Friedman’s original school voucher idea into the 21st century.
Arizona lawmakers were the first to create such a program, called Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs).
Through that program, the state of Arizona deposits 90 percent of the funds for a participating child into an account, which can cover multiple educational services through use-restricted debit cards. Parents can choose to use all of their funds on a single method—like private school tuition—or they can employ a customized strategy using multiple methods (e.g., online programs and community college classes). Critically, parents can save some of the money for future higher education expenses through a 529 college savings program. That feature creates an incentive for parents to judge all K-12 service providers not only on quality but also on cost.
At this time, eligibility is open in Arizona to students in special education.
However, next year eligibility opens to students in public schools that are graded D or F under state’s accountability structure (these letters refers to schools, not students), children in the foster care system, and dependents of those in the active military.