Coretha lost her husband sixteen years ago. Twelve years later, she lost her daughter, Da’Onna. After this tragedy, Coretha is raising her three grandchildren by herself.
Although she was happy with the local public school, she quickly found that her grandchildren were being bullied. She began looking for an alternative option, but she quickly realized she could not afford it on her own when she located one. Thankfully, with the help of Waterloo Christian school’s financial assistant, she enrolled her grandchildren into a new, healthy and safe environment.
Since enrollment, her grandchildren feel at home in their new school. In addition to safety, they are thriving due to the extra support their receiving.
“Without the school’s financial assistance, there’s no way I could possibly afford to send my three here. It’s still hard as it is. Without the scholarships we get, there’s just no way. Education Savings Accounts would make a big difference for us and take a lot of that weight off my shoulders,” said Coretha.
Grandmother / Caretaker
Whether it is for faith-based, curriculum, safety, or other reasons, many families believe that public schools are not providing the education their children need.
School choice provides the opportunity and freedom for parents to find the best possible education for their children. Choice in education can take many forms, including open enrollment within the public school system, tax credits to help offset private education costs, the creation of charter schools, homeschooling, vouchers to help pay tuition, among other policies.
Every child should have the ability to attend the school which provides the most opportunity to succeed. Iowa should expand its school choice policy to include Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), allowing funding to follow the student rather than a specific school.
ESAs represent the gold standard for school choice policy. An ESA provides parents with the flexibility to customize the best education for their children. This flexibility includes choosing which school their child attends and purchasing other educational services, thus affecting the overall quality of education they receive. The flexibility of an ESA is what makes it such a successful policy.
Some of the educational services ESAs can help cover include:
ESAs provide parents with a “deposit of public funds into government-authorized savings accounts with restricted, but multiple uses.” The dollar amount of an ESA varies depending on how the program is established. The amount is based on the state’s cost per pupil.
Having education dollars follow the student should not be controversial. Corey DeAngelis, Director of School Choice at the Reason Foundation, points out that other programs provide funding to families, and education should be no exception. “This is exactly how we fund many other taxpayer-funded initiatives, including Pell Grants for higher education and prekindergarten programs. For these programs, funding goes to families who can then choose from a wide array of public or private providers of the service. The same goes for food stamps. In these scenarios, the power is rightly in the hands of families rather than institutions,” wrote DeAngelis.
Critics of ESAs often argue that they will harm public schools by depriving them of resources. Should these same critics also oppose homeschooling in Iowa because it takes students away from public schools?
ESAs should not be controversial. School choice is about opportunity, and Iowa can expand educational opportunity by allowing dollars to follow students. Expanding school choice in Iowa will lead to greater competition in education and allow parents the freedom to select the best possible education for their children. Allowing more choice in education will empower families.
An ESA would allow families across Iowa the ability to afford the education that best fits their children’s needs. It is time that education dollars fund students rather than school bureaucracies.