Last week U.S. Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) introduced legislation to create Child Safety Accounts (CSAs) for public-school students in Washington, DC, which is the only school district under Congressional authority.

“School safety and the well-being of children is every parent’s number one concern,” said Congressman Banks, adding: 

In today’s complex world, school safety problems have become more prevalent. Unfortunately, too many students are trapped in unsafe schools. This Child Safety Account program will give families choices to pursue educational opportunities that keep their children safe and secure.

Specifically, the legislation (H.R. 2538) makes CSAs available to parents of elementary and secondary students facing a variety of safety issues, including:

  • Bullying,
  • Sexual Harassment, Abuse, and/or Misconduct,
  • Gang Activity,
  • Fights,
  • Suicide Attempts or Threats,
  • Shootings,
  • Drug Use,
  • Special Safety Needs,
  • Food Safety Needs,
  • Health Related Safety Issues,
  • Acts of Violence against Student, and
  • Other Safety Concerns

CSAs are tax-free accounts that parents could use to pay for tuition, tutoring, transportation, and other education-related expenses, including therapy to cope with a safety incident. Students’ CSAs would be worth from 80 to 90 percent of DC’s uniform per student funding formula, depending on their families’ incomes.

If enacted, DC would be the first nationwide to have an education savings account (ESA) program dedicated to student safety. Currently, six states have ESA programs, which allow parents of eligible students to use a portion of their children’s state education funding to pay for approved education expenses and services—including future expenses such as college tuition in some cases.

Unlike scholarships, which parents use to send their children to chosen schools, most ESAs work like a type of dedicated-used debit card, which empowers parents to purchase the tutoring, curricula, courses, and other resources they believe best meet the unique educational needs of their children. All ESA programs, including Rep. Banks’ proposed CSA for DC students, have strong oversight to help prevent misspending. Such programs are also tremendously popular.

Nearly eight out of 10 American voters favor ESAs, and three out of five say they are more likely to vote for elected officials who support expanding education options.

“While the scope of this bill is currently restricted to one city,” noted Congressman Banks, “it is my hope that the success of the program inspires more states to adopt similar policies and help children feel safe and free to learn at school.”