Skip directly to content

EDUCATION SAVINGS ACCOUNT: NEW NAME, SAME THREAT

on Sat, 10/21/2017 - 14:26

ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and AFP, Americans for Prosperity, are working together to re-brand their failed voucher program in Colorado. As of June, 2016, 5 states, Arizona, Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Nevada had adopted some or all of ALEC’s ESA laws. At least 6 other states, Alabama, Delaware, Iowa, Georgia, Oklahoma, Virginia, and Washington, DC were considering ESAs. Although several states have eligibility requirements, such as income level or disability identification, the program most recently passed in Nevada is a universal program that withstood a constitutional challenge to that state’s so called Blaine amendment but remains unfunded because of constraints in Nevada’s school finance act. Called Education Savings Accounts (ESA), Tax Credit Scholarships, or Opportunity Scholarships these programs are simply cancerous forms of vouchers. 
 
Proponents of Education Savings Accounts, Tax Credits, or Opportunity Scholarships claim that innovative choice programs empower parents to customize a child’s education by allowing them to leaving “failing schools” while lowering costs and improving outcomes. Perpetuating the false narrative of failing public schools, ignores decades of research that like matched peers in public schools outperform their private school counterparts. With the ultimate goal of maximizing each child’s natural learning abilities, there is not a single study that can show that students who participate in ESA programs learn more, perform, better, let alone narrow gaps in achievement and opportunity. Meanwhile, achievement gaps in all school types have been increasing between whites and non whites, those with or without disabilities, and by income level. Our schools today are more segregated than they were before Brown versus the Board of Education and court ordered integration and busing.
 
Placing public, taxpayer dollars for a child's education in a personalized account lacks the accountability and transparency required of public funds for public schools. Billed as an innovative way to bring customization to K-12 education, private and religious educational services and providers lack the supervision that public schools have in place. Although account funds can cover multiple education options, including private school tuition, online education, tutoring, therapy, transportation dual enrollment, test prep and test costs the viability and costs of such programs have not been figured into a single state's fiscal note and are rife with fraud and misuse.  It is disingenuous at best to say ESAs or their cancerous cousins are a way to supplement how “cost conscious” parents care for their child’s unique needs, when under most programs parents must opt out of the public schools, sign away any rights given to students with disabilities or learning English and are given a sum of money that cannot come close to purchasing the array of choices and services available in public school.  Finally, private providers can choose not to provide services to a child.  Public schools serve all children.
 
Once again, this effort to send limited public, taxpayer dollars to private religious schools must be stopped.  The voters have said no.  The Colorado Supreme Court has said no.  During the 2018 Colorado Legislative Session, we must tell our elected officials and those seeking to represent us that we are not going back to a time when children with disabilities were only educated in church basements, institutions, or private homes.  We are not rolling back efforts to include ALL children in community schools they can attend with like minded as well as people with whom they may not agree or see eye to eye.  In order to secure the brightest possible future for our children, our communities and our economy, we must resist any plans to undermine our public schools.