The School-Choice Moment
Never before have so many students had so many options
Arizona, West Virginia, Iowa, Utah, Arkansas, Florida, Oklahoma, Ohio. No, that is not a list of states being targeted by 2024 presidential candidates. Those are the states that have passed universal or near-universal school-choice programs in the last two years. All but Arizona’s and West Virginia’s were passed in the 2023 legislative session, making this the most successful year in the history of school-choice advocacy.
But more important than where school choice has grown are the particular policies that have been passed. Universal education savings accounts (ESAs) are a novel way to fund children’s schooling. Arizona, West Virginia, Iowa, Utah, Arkansas, and Florida either instituted new or expanded existing ESA programs. Unlike the previous generation of choice policies such as vouchers or tax-credit-funded scholarships, ESAs place public funds for education in flexible-use spending accounts controlled by parents. The funds can be subdivided among multiple educational providers to cover the costs of private-school tuition, tutoring, educational technology, curricula, books, and more. ESA programs, in other words, are more than school-choice programs that empower families to choose among schools; they are true educational-choice programs that enable them to customize their kids’ education.
Nicole Stelle Garnett is the John P. Murphy Foundation professor of law at University of Notre Dame and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Michael McShane is director of national research at EdChoice. Based on a recent report.
Photo by baona/iStock