A few years ago, the hope of providing all families within a state with funding to select the education avenues that would best serve their individual children was considered nearly unimaginable. Yet parents and advocates achieved huge historic wins for educational freedom during the 2022 and 2023 legislative sessions. As a result, several states have signed universal or near-universal education savings accounts into law.
Do you know about education savings accounts? Play this “Two Truths and a Lie” game to find out.
A. As of now, 15 states have enacted education savings account programs.
B. In America, K-12 public education has operated largely as a monopoly.
C. Teachers unions and Democrat political leaders support school choice.
A. TRUTH! An education savings account, commonly referred to as an ESA, is a government-funded account for parents to allocate toward the K-12 education of their children. Parents and students can use funds to pay for a wide range of educational expenses. Additionally, in many cases, families can save ESA funds for future college tuition. Due to this flexibility, ESAs are the gold standard of the various types of school choice programs.
In total, 15 states currently have some form of an ESA program, including six states with universal programs with all students statewide qualifying. Other states are positioned to join the ESA ranks in the coming years.
B. TRUTH! Other than state-owned monopolies in China, K-12 public education in America is the largest government-controlled monopoly in the world. Individuals pay taxes that fund public education, and children are assigned to a specific school based on their home address and school zone boundary lines. The majority of families are not able to select a different public school (other than in communities with public school open enrollment laws) regardless of the school’s failure to provide quality student learning or to keep children physically safe.
The lack of market competition in K-12 education results in the subpar status quo. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exam scores reveal that private school students score significantly higher in each individual subject than public school students at all testing grade levels—fourth, eighth, and twelfth. By stifling competition, innovation suffers, academic accountability is dramatically weakened, and curriculum transparency is not required. Additionally, fiscal responsibility is nearly irrelevant as the vast majority of students are trapped in the public education system, maintaining its near monopoly.
C. LIE! Teachers unions and Democrat political leaders, notoriously in lockstep, oppose school choice because maintaining the public school monopolies fills their coffers and grants political power. More specifically, Democrat lawmakers are loyal to public school teachers unions. The teachers unions are stark opponents of school choice because the more children enrolled in public schools, the greater the staffing levels, which equates to more members’ dues for the unions. Then unions, in turn, spend millions of dollars fueling Democrats’ political campaigns every year.
For example, in 2022, the National Education Association, the largest teachers union in the nation, spent nearly $42 million on political activism causes while spending $38 million to protect union members. In addition, Democrat Governor Katie Hobbs, who took office in 2023, is on a mission to end Arizona’s universal ESA program that former Republican Governor Doug Ducey signed into law last year. She claims that the ESA program will bankrupt the state. It’s a far-fetched lie because, in reality, the ESA program saves the state massive amounts of money.
Bottom Line: The byproducts of a free market K-12 education environment created by statewide universal or near-universal ESAs are far-reaching and significant. More specifically, the free market education landscape will cultivate education innovation, attract entrepreneurs, enhance curriculum transparency, foster fiscal responsibility, and provide accountability for student learning. The flexibility ESAs provide is crucial for this coming future of K-12 education where students don’t enroll in a single school but rather design a multi-provider educational experience.
To learn more, read the Policy Focus on Education Savings Accounts.