Education Savings Accounts Earn High Marks from Pa. Voters

As parents and students celebrate National School Choice Week with events in Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia, a new poll shows Pennsylvanians want to put more educational choices into parent’s hands.

Two-thirds of likely voters support establishing education savings accounts (ESAs) in Pennsylvania, according to polling released today by the Commonwealth Foundation. ESAs are accounts funded and supervised by the state but controlled by parents, which allow families to purchase education services customized to their child’s needs. The poll of 400 likely Pennsylvania voters, conducted by McLaughlin & Associates, found majority support for ESAs across party lines and among all demographics.

“Voters understand the need to empower parents with options when it comes to education,” commented Nathan Benefield, vice president and COO for the Commonwealth Foundation. “Six states have already enacted ESAs, and families are extremely satisfied with the results. ESAs promise to improve the lives of thousands of students by giving parents the resources to choose what’s best for their child.”

(Chart: Pa. Voters Support Education Savings Accounts)

Last year, state Sen. John DiSanto introduced Senate Bill 2, which would establish ESAs for families in the lowest-performing school districts in the state. The accounts could be used to purchase approved education services including tutoring, curriculum, private school tuition, and therapy for students with special needs. To qualify, a student must first be enrolled in a district school performing in the bottom 15 percent statewide, then withdraw to access the ESA.

“ESAs are truly a win-win for families and for school districts,” continued Benefield. “ESAs allow parents to customize their child’s education to fit his or her unique needs, something not possible in our current one-size-fits-all public education system. And students who leave a district school to make use of an ESA will reduce class sizes and free up resources for those who remain, effectively boosting per-pupil spending in the district. Given the clear support of Pennsylvanians for this policy change, lawmakers should quickly advance ESA legislation.”

Commonwealth Foundation experts are available for comment. Please contact John Bouder 717-461-7978 or [email protected] to schedule an interview.

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The Commonwealth Foundation transforms free-market ideas into public policies so all Pennsylvanians can flourish.