“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” –Proverbs 22:6 (ESV)
It is no secret that New Mexico consistently ranks near or at the bottom in public education when compared to other states. In January, Education Week magazine released its 2018 Quality Counts report, in which they ranked New Mexico 50th out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Sadly, our substandard rankings in education have become an annual regularity, and, each year, we are told that the solution is more funding for public education. However, we rarely talk about the fact that, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, New Mexico spends more per-pupil than any of our neighboring states – states that consistently outperform us in virtually every education category.
So, if more money is not the answer to improving education in New Mexico, what is?
At Family Policy Alliance of New Mexico, we believe that parents have a God-given responsibility and right to direct the upbringing and education of their children. To this end, we believe one of the most critical solutions needed to improve education in our state is school choice for families, and Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) represent one option we should seriously consider.
What is an ESA? As described by EdChoice, ESAs “allow parents to withdraw their children from public district or charter schools and receive a deposit of public funds into government-authorized savings accounts with restricted, but multiple, uses.” Those funds—often distributed to families via debit card—can cover private school tuition and fees, online learning programs, private tutoring, community college costs, higher education expenses, and other approved customized learning services and materials.
What are the benefits of ESAs? ESAs allow families to choose a better education for their children. Parents and guardians know what type of education and which school is best for their children, and ESAs would give them access to options not currently available to them. This particularly benefits middle-class and poor families, and those currently living in public education districts with struggling schools.
Have ESAs been tried before? Six other states, including Arizona and Nevada, have already established ESA programs, and at least thirteen others have introduced legislation this year to establish them.
How does the money work? Programs differ from state to state, however, the deposit of public funds into an ESA is typically a fixed amount established by the state, or a fixed percentage of the per-pupil state funds.
Are ESAs a good idea? Overall, we believe ESAs are a great idea for New Mexico. ESAs give a sizable amount of freedom to parents on how to best educate their children and they explicitly recognize the responsibilities of parents to play a role in their children’s education.
Something to think about: According to an EdChoice survey (2017 Schooling in America), ESAs have strong support among Democrats (71%) and Republicans (73%), and particularly strong support among Hispanics (81%).
Something to pray for: Please pray for our schools—including our public, private, charter, and home schools—that God would bless, protect, and improve them for the benefit of all our children.
Something to do: Please take 2 minutes to watch this short video on ESAs – “A New Kind of Education Savings Account”
God bless you and have a great week!
President and Executive Director