POLL: Parents Are Wary of Sending Kids Back to School, Want Better Solutions
Newer programs called education savings accounts may help K–12 families find better educational solutions for their families
Just a month from now, K–12 schools across the nation will re-open their doors with new safety plans in place.
Parents are concerned.
They’re concerned that their children are missing instructional time (80%) and that they will be exposed to COVID-19 at school (75%), according to EdChoice monthly polling powered by Morning Consult. In fact, 67 percent of American school parents said they would opt for e-learning rather than physically returning to school in the fall, and 59 percent say they favor home schooling more than before the pandemic thrust them into the home educator role.
Parents are seeing education differently. Now more than ever, they need and expect the flexibility to pick an educational setting that’s best for their child and their family. Let’s face it. As well-intentioned as our traditional school districts’ re-opening plans are, they still cannot guarantee our families’ safety.
Public education in most states is not set up to equip families with the funds they need to access schooling options outside the district system—choices are only available to those who can afford to move or pay tuition costs. It’s an unequal, outdated system built for a different time and a different America.
The good news is that there are programs state legislators can create to correct that inequity and empower families to do what’s right for them.
Education savings accounts (also known as ESAs) are K–12 programs that allow families to customize an education for their child by transferring all or a portion of the tax dollars already set aside for their education into a secure account they can use to pay for approved educational expenses. That could look like: online learning and educational therapies. Or it could look like: private school plus a reading specialist. Or it could look like: hybrid homeschooling. The flexibility is in the hands of the parents.
Here’s a video of one child’s ESA experience.
These programs aren’t untested. Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee have all offered families ESAs, though to varying degrees. Arizona has the largest and longest-running ESA program to date. According to a 2019 survey of Arizona ESA parents, 73 percent of them said they are confident their child is safe at school. Majorities also said they work on math more, read to their children more, communicate with teachers more and get involved in their community more now that they use ESAs.
Lawmakers often wonder about the potential for fraudulent spending with programs like this. In every state, there are safeguards in place to prevent that. For instance, families will receive a debit card that will disburse payment only if the service provider is on an approved list of vendors. Some states also require families to provide receipts for all their payments quarterly and audit them in order to receive their next quarter’s funds.
The recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue means more states than ever will be empowered to create strong education savings account programs that serve all families and allow access to many types of schooling.
For more information about educational choice programs like ESAs—including existing program information, empirical research, trainings, customized services and more—visit edchoice.org.