FamilyPrint

Education Savings Accounts: A Good Idea?

Family Policy Alliance of North Dakota believes that parents have a God-given responsibility and right to direct the upbringing and education of their children. Toward this end, we believe that education savings accounts (ESAs) are one option to consider when it comes to school choice.

What is an ESA? As described by EdChoice (formerly the Friedman Foundation), Education savings accounts (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.

Potential benefits of ESAs ESAs allow parents to fully tailor their child’s entire educational experience. Families know best what type of education children need to succeed, and ESAs give families the keys to unlock that experience for their children. Family Policy Alliance of North Dakota wants to help launch children to success and access the education best suited for them to lay this critical foundation.

Have ESAs been tried before? states have already established some sort of successful ESA programs for their children, and many more are currently considering ESAs. At least thirteen other states so far this year have recognized the benefits of ESAs and have introduced legislation that would establish them.

How does the money work? If North Dakota were to implement ESAs, some percentage of the per-pupil state contribution to aid formula (75% suggested in a bill introduced during the 2017 legislative session) would go into an ESA for the student to be used by parents. The remaining amount (25% using the aforementioned example) would still go to the local school district, despite not incurring the variable costs associated with the student that no longer attends their institution. Based on a typical school year, this means that thousands of dollars would be allocated for each child whose parents utilize ESA contributions.

What are the downsides of ESAs? Parents are sometimes worried that receiving government funding in the form of ESAs will allow the state government to impose additional testing and related restrictions on their teaching methods. School districts worry that fixed school costs (e.g., school buildings) still need to be paid, even if they have lower enrollment and unused space. We believe that both of these potential problems can be addressed with the appropriately worded legislation, as has been successfully done in other states.

Are ESAs a good idea? Overall, Family Policy Alliance of North Dakota believes that ESAs are in many ways an excellent option when it comes to school choice. They give a sizable amount of freedom to parents on how to best educate their children and ESAs explicitly recognize that educating our children is a parental responsibility, not the responsibly of the public educational system.

If you agree, please contact your legislators and let them know you support ESAs.

Your voice makes all the difference when it comes to protecting family values and school choice in North Dakota!

Sincerely,

Mark Jorritsma
President and Executive Director