ESAs Heading to New England
News of a $560 million Powerball lottery ticket being sold in New Hampshire seems to have overshadowed news of the state House of Representatives passing education savings accounts (ESAs) last week. The bill has to go through the House Finance Committee and the full House again before heading to the governor. If enacted, the impact will be profound for New Hampshire and the movement towards ESAs across the country.
ESAs are flexible spending accounts that parents can use to customize their children’s education. The state would deposit a portion of the state’s per pupil education funds – approximately $3,600 – into special accounts that parents control. The funds can be used for private school tuition, tutoring, services for special needs, and more.
Enacting this legislation will make New Hampshire the first state in New England to offer this transformative education option to students, including those with special needs, low-income students, and students who were denied a private school scholarship or charter school enrollment due to space limitations. ESAs have already been authorized in six states: Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, Nevada, and North Carolina.
Widespread parent satisfaction with ESAs is fueling their spread. At least 18 other states have introduced legislation since 2015, including Pennsylvania. Senate Bill 2 offers ESAs to children who are trapped in failing schools.
SB2 would be life changing for recipients. While tax credit scholarships help some of these students, the demand is greater than the supply and thousands of children are turned away each year.
For example, tax credit scholarships enable the Children’s Scholarship Fund Philadelphia (CSFP) to help more than 5,000 low-income students attend the school of their choice each year. Scholarships are awarded by lottery because the need is so great. Each year, nearly 8,000 students are turned away due to lack of funds.
The lucky winners of these scholarships and their parents are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to receive a quality education. For example, Antoinette is a sixth-grader who receives a CSFP scholarship; her favorite subject is math and she wants to be an astronaut when she grows up. According to her mom, “I think it’s worth every penny to send my daughter to a better school, and this scholarship makes it financially within reach. ‘Apply every year until you get picked’ is what I would tell someone.”
With ESAs, students who are trapped in failing schools wouldn’t be at the mercy of a lottery system. Parents would be able to rescue their children and give them the education they deserve.
Education isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition; what works for one student won’t necessarily work for another. ESAs recognize this simple fact and empower parents to create the educational program that best suits their children. ESAs are changing the lives of students throughout the country. It’s time to give the same opportunity to Pennsylvania students.
Note: This blog was updated to more accurately reflect the NH legislative process.